The dispute between Walt Disney World and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to be escalating once again, as he issued multiple threats on the resort in a new statement.
Politico reports that in a speech delivered at Hillsdale College, a conservative liberal arts college in Michigan, DeSantis said “They are not superior to the people of Florida. So come hell or high water we’re going to make sure that policy of Florida carries the day. And so they can keep trying to do things. But ultimately we’re going to win on every single issue involving Disney I can tell you that.”
DeSantis also promised to double down on his efforts to punish Disney through methods both in the Legislature and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. Notably, he promised to hike Disney’s hotel taxes and institute tolls on the roads around Walt Disney World Resort property now administered by the CFTOB, among others.
In a separate speech hosted by the Midland County Republican Party in Michigan, the governor said “Disney tried to pull a fast one on the way out the door. That story’s not over yet. Buckle up. There’s more coming down the pike.”
DeSantis v. Disney: Part II
While tensions cooled between the governor and Disney as last year came to a close, the spark reignited once again earlier this year when Disney passed several laws which restricted the power of his newly-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, designed to replace the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The new board was designed as retaliation for Disney’s outspoken response to a bill last year which restricted educators from teaching any LGBTQ+-related concepts to students.
Through the final meeting of the Reedy Creek Improvement District’s board, which was controlled by Disney, the board passed a number of restrictive covenants which handed most of the District’s power to Disney for a period of at least thirty years, but also lasting until after the death of the final living descendant of King Charles III.
The move shocked DeSantis and his board, who expressed disbelief at Disney’s actions and retained multiple law firms to fight the agreement in court. At the time, the Executive Office of the Governor reached out to WDWNT with this statement from Communications Director Taryn Fenske:
“The Executive Office of the Governor is aware of Disney’s last-ditch efforts to execute contracts just before ratifying the new law that transfers rights and authorities from the former Reedy Creek Improvement District to Disney. An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law. We are pleased the new Governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”
Disney responded with their own statement:
“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida Government in the Sunshine law.”
Earlier this month at Disney’s annual shareholder meeting, CEO Bob Iger accused Gov. DeSantis of punishing Disney for exercising their right to free speech. “We love the state of Florida,” he said, citing the company’s various investments in the community over the years and saying he respected and appreciated what the state has done for Disney in the past. “Any action that thwarts these efforts simply to retaliate is anti-business and anti-Florida.”