DeSantis Makes Things Even Worse For Disney

Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

On Friday (May 5), Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation allowing the board he appointed to oversee Disney World to cancel Disney contracts within three months of claiming authority.

Florida’s House and Senate quickly passed the legislation Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. DeSantis signed the legislation Friday in response to Disney’s initiative to weaken the power of the five-member board.

He followed up by confirming he signed the legislation in a letter to Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd (R).

The law is the latest attempt to exercise more state control over Walt Disney Corp. amid an ongoing dispute between the company and the governor.

The controversy began last year when Disney criticized the DeSantis-backed Parental Rights in Education Act, which opponents denounced as a “Don’t Say Gay” law that restricted discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools.

After Disney promised to attempt to repeal the law and reiterated the company’s support for the LGBTQ community, DeSantis moved to remove Disney’s special status, given to the company in the 1960s, effectively giving the company self-governing control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

In response, DeSantis signed legislation replacing Reedy Creek with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, but Disney signed an agreement in secret just before the DeSantis-appointed board took over, giving Disney development authority over its park.

The government responded by voiding the contract, prompting Disney to sue DeSantis, alleging that he had harmed the company’s business and violated the company’s constitutional rights to free speech.

The law gives Florida’s government the ability to cancel Disney’s contract and strengthen the state’s own authority over Disney.

The law says the government-appointed board must review previously signed development agreements within four months of taking office.

The subsection that sets out the board’s authority to review these contracts expires in July 2028 unless extended.