On Monday Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s longstanding beef with the Most Magical Place on Earth culminated with the adoption of a law that dismantles Disney World’s special tax district. The move appears to be belated retaliation for The Walt Disney Company’s opposition to DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, a 2022 measure that prohibits public schools from teaching young children about gender identity or sexual orientation.
The new law, HB 9-B, nullifies the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), a special tax district the State of Flordia established in 1967 to help Disney build Disney World. Under the rules that govern special tax districts like RCID, Disney operated like a “corporate kingdom”: The company established its own government within the district that held elections, issued debt, and collected revenue. It also managed utilities, mass transit, and town planning.
DeSantis asked Flordia legislators to scrap the RCID back in March 2022, when Disney first pushed back against the “Don’t Say Gay” law and pledged to stop donating to Florida politicians who supported it. The legislators didn’t sack the district outright because doing so would force neighboring Orange and Osceola counties to absorb $1 billion in Disney bond debt, a move that would have raised residents’ taxes by an average of $2,200 annually.
Last month, DeSantis convened a special legislative session to strip Disney of its special tax district and replace it with a new, state-controlled one called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. On February 27, the measure was signed into law.
According to the legislation, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District will be run by a board of directors comprised of five members appointed by DeSantis and the Florida Senate. This appointed board will oversee how Disney manages its corporate operations and theme parks, with reviews and limits on projects it may take on going forward. The property and company are now subject to zoning, building, and safety codes and regulations designated by the board or county.
Disney has not yet issued a comment on this week’s events.