Breaking: DeSantis Spikes the Ball as Disney Drops Suit Challenging Loss of Special-District Status

After a year of legal wrangling between the Walt Disney Company and Florida leaders over the company's ability to control its governing body, the two sides have reached a settlement agreement that includes Disney dropping its lawsuits against a newly created tourism board.

As part of the settlement agreement, Disney is acknowledging that last-minute development agreements approved by a previous board are "null and void," according to Governor Ron DeSantis's office. Those agreements would have handed permanent control of development of the special district that includes Disney's Florida theme parks to Disney.

"No corporation should be its own government," Bryan Griffin, a spokesman for the governor, said in an emailed statement. "Moving forward, we stand ready to work with Disney and the District to help promote economic growth, family-friendly tourism, and accountable government in Central Florida."

National Review has reached out to Disney for comment on the agreement.

The spat between the DeSantis administration and Disney started a couple of years back, after Disney publicly denounced the state's Parental Rights in Education bill. The bill, which opponents labeled the "Don't Say Gay" bill, prohibited the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity to young students in the state.

After receiving pressure from employees, Disney's then-CEO, Bob Chapek, said that the company's leaders had been opposed to the bill "from the outset," and Disney declared that the legislation "should never have passed and should never have been signed into law."

In February 2023, DeSantis signed House Bill 9B, which established the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District to replace Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District. Reedy Creek was a 56-year-old special taxing district that allowed Disney control its own development, regulations, building codes, and other municipal services.

Lawmakers voted to give the governor the power to appoint the district's board members.

However, before a DeSantis-appointed board took over last March, the Disney-controlled board handed control of the district's development over to Disney.

Media reported that DeSantis had been humiliated and "out-negotiated by Mickey Mouse."

DeSantis responded, calling the move illegal, and saying "that's not going to fly" and that Disney is "going to live under the same laws as everybody else." He also made a series of not-so-subtle threats about using the board he appointed to, among other things, raise Disney's taxes and to approve of building a competing theme park or a new state prison in the district.

The board then voted to void the Disney-controlled board's agreements with the company.

Disney sued, claiming that DeSantis, state officials, and the special-district board were engaged in a "targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney's protected speech."

In January, a federal judge ruled in the state's favor, dismissing Disney's lawsuit, saying that the company lacked standing to sue the government over constitutionally-enacted state laws. But Disney vowed to continue with its legal fight. "If left unchallenged, this would set a dangerous precedent and give license to states to weaponize their official powers to punish the expression of political viewpoints they disagree with," a Disney spokesman told the New York Post.

As part of the settlement, Disney acknowledges that the development agreement approved by the outgoing Reedy Creek board has "no legal effect or enforceability."

As for the media reports that DeSantis had been humiliated and out-maneuvered by Disney, Griffin said that "as usual, the media were wrong."

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DeSantis Spikes the Ball as Disney Drops Suit Challenging Loss of Special-District Status

As for the reports that DeSantis had been out-maneuvered, the governor’s spokesman said that ‘as ... READ MORE

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