DeSantis May Take Control of Disney’s Special District in Florida

A new Florida bill cracks down on Disney’s self-governance in the state.

What happened: Florida’s House Bill 9B, released on Monday, reforms Disney’s self-governing Reedy Creek Improvement District in the state into the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District,” transfers more control from the company to the governor’s office, and repeals Disney’s special tax status.

Disney’s special district autonomy: Since 1967, the Walt Disney Co. has operated within a special self-governing district in Florida known as the “Reedy Creek Improvement District.” The special district status has allowed the company to levy taxes and control utility services like power, water, and roads within the district’s 25,000 acres without state government oversight. It also gives the company’s self-appointed board the power to take property through eminent domain and even to create its own airport and nuclear power plant, though it hasn’t.

The bill: The legislation would transfer the power of appointment for the district’s board from Disney to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office. It also removes the board’s ability to build stadiums, nuclear power plants, and airports and prohibits Disney from taking property outside the district through eminent domain.

How we got here: After Disney publicly denounced DeSantis’s policies and his Parental Rights in Education Act, Florida Republicans have pushed to reconsider the state’s relationship with the multi-billion dollar company. Last April, in response to Disney’s left-wing activism and opposition to his agenda, DeSantis began to reconsider Disney’s special district status. While DeSantis originally sought to dissolve Reedy Creek altogether, he has since opted to transfer control of the district indirectly to his office.