Disney will have a “new sheriff in town” once Florida formally takes control of the company’s special tax district, Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted.
DeSantis lobbed his latest volley at the Mouse House as Florida state lawmakers hold a special session to consider a bill that will strip Disney of its self-governing status within the Reedy Creek Improvement District – where the company has had near-autonomy for decades.
“This is obviously now going to be controlled by the state of Florida, which is no longer self-governing for them,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Ocala on Wednesday. “So, there’s a new sheriff in town and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”
Under the proposed legislation backed by DeSantis and state Republicans, the governor would have authority to appoint the members of a new five-person board for the special district, which will be renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
The bill will keep the district intact after DeSantis and others had initially called for it to be dissolved entirely. Disney will be required to comply with state regulations within the district. Critics had warned that dissolving the district would shift a financial burden to Florida taxpayers.
“Disney is no longer going to have self-government; they’re not going to have their own government,” DeSantis said. “Disney’s going to pay its fair share of taxes and Disney’s going to honor the debt and that’s exactly what this proposed piece of legislation will do.”
The legislation’s fate will be determined during a special session that began earlier this week and is expected to last for 12 days.
DeSantis has targeted Disney for months after company executives publicly bashed the state’s passage of the Republican-backed “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort said in a statement earlier this week.
“Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year,” Vahle added.
The fight over the special district is another headache for Disney, which is attempting to right itself after a lengthy stock slide.
Disney CEO Bob Iger announced plans for 7,000 layoffs as part of a sweeping cost-cutting plan at the company.
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