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Florida lawmakers move to give DeSantis control of Disney tax district, after 'Don't Say Gay'

The bill could face a legal challenge from Disney if it becomes law.

Published: February 7, 2023 8:43am

Updated: February 7, 2023 9:58am

Florida lawmakers have taken a big step toward giving Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis firm control over Disney's special tax district – after the company last year criticized the state's parental rights bill.

In a bill proposed Monday in the special legislative session, the special district, in Orlando, would be oversee by five board members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

With support from Ron DeSantis, the state legislature voted last year to revoke Disney's special self-governing and tax status, which allowed it to essentially operate as a county government for more than 50 years, after the company criticized the parental rights bill, which became known as the "Don't Say Gay" issue.

The legislation released Monday would place the nearly 40-square-miles of the Walt Disney World theme park, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, under the control of the governor, the entertainment media outlet Variety reports.

The area would be re-established as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and remain largely intact under the bill.

DeSantis said last week said he hopes that at the special legislative session, lawmakers make sure "Disney doesn’t have self-governing status anymore."

The bill could face a legal challenge if it becomes law. Disney currently oversees 911 calls, the fire department, planning, road maintenance and more in the special district. The company cab even levy taxes on landowners to support operations there. 

"We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District," Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said, also according to Variety. "Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world."

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