If any Disney fans remain concerned about the Walt Disney World Resort's legal status with the state of Florida, don't be. Disney continues to control its own operations in Florida, despite the governor's latest attempt to pander to anti-Disney constituents in the state and beyond.
The Florida Legislature last year voted to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District that has administrative authority over the Walt Disney World Resort property and that Disney effectively controls. [See What Is Next for Disney in Florida's Battle Over Reedy Creek?] The state's action seeks to dissolve the RCID on June 1, with an out for Disney to apply for its re-formation before then.
But the state's action violates the terms under which Florida created the RCID in the 1960s (see the link above for an explanation), so Disney has an excellent court case here if it wants to challenge the state's move against the RCID. This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pitched a state-controlled board to take over the functions of the RCID rather than allowing Disney to re-form the district.
DeSantis and his allies went after Reedy Creek when then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek finally stood up for Walt Disney World cast members and spoke out against Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, which outlaws mention of gender or sexual orientation in K-3 classrooms in the state. (If anyone thinks that teachers will in get trouble with the state for using the words "Mom and Dad" in their classroom, you've got to be kidding. It's only mentions of "Mom and Mom" or "Dad and Dad" that will draw retribution from state authorities - thus, the pejorative, "Don't Say Gay." The law likely is headed for a long journey through the courts.)
Chapek's gone, and Bob Iger is back in charge at Disney, so some Florida Republicans now are willing to deal on the RCID. But DeSantis is all but officially running for President and is looking to appeal to conservative culture warriors among Republican voters. Taking Disney's government away and putting it under his control plays well to that base. That's why we're getting these news stories this week.
It's not going to happen, though - not without a court fight. And I would bet on Disney's lawyers against DeSantis' every single time.
My guess? Disney plays out the clock until May and then offers Florida a deal - an agreement to "re-form" the RCID by keeping the district as it has been, indefinitely, with no future legislative option to revoke it without district residents' permission. Otherwise, it's "see you in court."
The sooner that Florida officials cave and let Disney have its way, the sooner that theme park fans can expect announcements from Walt Disney World on new attractions and developments going forward at the resort. Otherwise, Disney is smart to keep future Florida expansion publicly in limbo until the state stops trying to mess around with the legal district that manages development at the Walt Disney World Resort.
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