Over the past two months, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly declared success in his years-long effort to curb the autonomy of the state’s largest employer, Disney World. “There’s a new sheriff in town,” he said several times, including at a news conference on the Disney property last month, hours before a new, elected oversight board was appointed.
However, no one seems to have paid attention to an important detail: Disney was simultaneously maneuvering to limit the governor’s effort. In early February — at a public meeting held by the previous, Disney-controlled supervisory board — the company presented a development agreement that would limit the new board’s power for decades.
Now, the governor’s appointees, who discovered the act too late, are none too happy. Brian Angst Jr., a member of the new council, said Wednesday that it “totally oversteps the board’s authority to govern.” Second meeting of the committee. “We have to deal with it and fix it.”
Mr. DeSantis did not weigh in personally, but a spokesman, Taryn Fenske, said in a statement that the new board has retained several law firms to “audit and investigate Disney’s past conduct.” Ms. Fenske added.
“All agreements signed between Disney and the county were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, observed public forums in accordance with Florida’s state-in-the-sunshine law,” Disney said in a statement.
The upshot: The fight between Disney and Florida Republicans is far from over.
Mr. When DeSantis asked, the feud began a year ago. These concessions, known as special tax districts, allow the company to self-govern its 25,000 acres. The theme park complex, as a practical district, controls fire protection, policing, road maintenance – and, importantly, development planning.
The move was widely seen as a response to Disney’s opposition to the new state education law, which opponents of the bill call “Don’t Say Gay.” Among other things, the law prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms through third grade and restricts it to older students. Disney halted political donations in Florida as a result of the law.
Understand the DeSantis-Disney Split
Until Mr. Legislature realized there was a problem. Went with DeSantis. Abolishing the county set for June 1 — Taxpayers in Orange and Osceola counties will have to pick up the tab for some Disney World services. Under the old system, Disney paid for fire protection, policing and road maintenance. The district also carried about $1 billion in debt. If the district was abolished, the credit would have been transferred to the districts.
So the Legislature tried again, taking up a new Disney World measure in a special session that began on February 6 and passing it on February 10. This time, Disney was allowed to keep the special tax district — which never went away — and all its perks, including the ability to issue tax-exempt bonds. But Disney could no longer appoint five members of the tax district board. Florida’s governor will now do just that.
In the middle of that week, on February 8, the tax district board – one controlled by Disney – passed restrictive covenants and a development agreement giving the company broad control over future construction in the district; The new board had no comment.
According to tax district disclosures, an announcement of the investigation into the action was made in the Orlando Sentinel on Jan. 18. The matter was discussed in a short public meeting on January 25 and approved in a second public meeting on February 8. There was some local news coverage on the matter, but it focused primarily on Disney giving itself the option. Build a fifth theme park on the property if desired.
This Agreement shall remain in effect in perpetuity. It uses contract language known as the “Royal Lives” clause: “It shall continue until twenty-one (21) years after the death of the last surviving descendant of Charles III, King of England. Declaration.” (The official language soon emerged Many internet memes(It strikes people differently when it comes to a theme park that owns Cinderella’s castle.)
The agreement also prohibits the tax district, now known as the Central Florida Tourism Supervisory District, from using the Disney name, Mickey Mouse and other characters without the company’s permission. Disney may sue for damages for violations.
“The board is losing the ability to do anything beyond maintaining roads and maintaining basic infrastructure, for practical purposes,” new board member Ron Perry told the meeting.
The new appointees approved the hiring of four law firms to investigate the matter and possibly take Disney to court. One of them, Cooper & Kirk, will bill $795 an hour, The Orlando Sentinel reported.
Based on their public opinions, some incoming members of the board feel they can play a role in determining the type of entertainment Disney offers. In the last month News conference on Disney property, Mr. DeSantis said his appointees would “really want to see entertainment that families can appreciate” and “want to see Disney as Walt envisioned it.” The comments were seen as thinly veiled hints at Disney’s desire to include LGBTQ characters in movies and TV shows.
“When you lose your way, you have to have people who are going to tell you the truth,” Mr. DeSantis said at the event.
Designees do not have direct authority to dictate the content that Disney provides to its customers. But they may have tried to influence Disney by using the power they thought they were going to get to improve the resort.
Mr. Mr. DeSantis, a lawyer. Angst and former pastor and CEO of a Christian ministry in Orlando, Mr. He named five people to the board, including Perry. (Mr. Perry has done National News (for spreading the baseless theory that tap water turns people gay.)
Another panelist is Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a group that supported Florida’s law restricting discussion of sexuality and gender identity in classrooms. (Her husband is the chairman of the Florida Republican Party.)
Ms. Ziegler attacked Disney on Twitter on Wednesday for presenting the development agreement and restrictive covenants.
“From ignoring parents and allowing extremists to sexually assault our children, to sneaking in a last-minute girlfriend development deal and ignoring Florida taxpayers, Disney has once again overplayed their hand in Florida” She wrote. “We will not stand for this and we will not back down. If illegal actions are taken, this development agreement will be cancelled.