Florida Governor clashes with the Mouse over special jurisdiction

Joshua Alvarado, News Reporter

Graphic by Ray Alarcon Marquez

Disney World has protected itself from oversight by Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis. 

For 55 years, Disney was overseen in its own special tax and governing jurisdiction by the Reedy Creek Improvement District.  

According to their website, this district “is a local government entity, created in 1967 by a special act of the Florida Legislature, the purpose of which is to support and administer certain aspects of the economic development and tourism within District Boundaries.” 

This was acting as a county government, where landlords like Disney would foot the bill for the utilities like fire, power, water roads and other things of that nature. Local taxpayers would not pay anything to maintain them, and this district would gain its money by controlling how taxation and fees are levied in their district.  

Whoever controls this group would have massive sway over the groups and people inside the district, namely, Walt Disney World Resort.  

This year, Gov. DeSantis replaced several members of the group with hand-selected individuals.  

In an article by AP News, “The five supervisors were appointed by the Republican governor to the board after the Florida Legislature overhauled Disney’s government in retaliation for the entertainment giant publicly opposing the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation.”  

AP News also reported in that article that this move had helped the governor’s reputation as a culture warrior—something that could be useful for a potential presidential run in the future. What the governor did wasn’t so much to change anything about the relationship between Disney and Reedy Creek, but instead, merely put his own people on the inside. 

Although, he did want to change the name from Reedy Creek to Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. This would have granted power over Disney, or at least given him enough influence over them that they would have to consider him in most of their stances and decisions. 

However, Disney revealed on March 29, 2023, to have taken measures to prevent him from getting the power he wanted earlier that year.  

According to an article from CNBC, a change was made on Feb. 8, 2023: “As part of a 30-year development agreement, Disney no longer needs board approval to build high-density projects or buildings of any height and can sell and assign development rights.”  

This clause is mainly used in the UK, where the clause will continue to work 21 years after the death of the last descendant of King Charles III. According to the same CNBC article, if any of the current grandchildren live to 80 years of age, this Disney buffer will last for 100 years.  

Along with this, Disney banned the usage of its materials and characters from being used by the board and added protection to keep it from being overthrown.