Battle Between Governor DeSantis and Disney Escalates with Proposed Revocation of Development Agreement
The battle between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney Co. continues to escalate. DeSantis recently announced that the state legislature will file a bill to revoke an agreement Disney reached to circumvent state oversight of its parks. The move intensifies the conflict between DeSantis, a likely presidential contender, and one of the state’s largest employers.
Disney struck a development agreement with outgoing members of the oversight board that effectively ties the hands of DeSantis’ appointees. DeSantis says the Florida legislature will take steps to nullify this agreement, as it renders everything that he did null and void.
The Florida governor began targeting Disney a year ago when the company’s then-Chief Executive Bob Chapek spoke out against a bill limiting discussion of sexuality and gender identity in Florida elementary school classrooms. DeSantis and the Florida legislature have been working to eliminate the virtual autonomy the company has enjoyed over Walt Disney World for more than 50 years. Disney employs some 75,000 people in the state.
Disney’s battle against “woke” culture has figured in speeches by DeSantis, as he travels around the country ahead of an anticipated 2024 presidential bid. Florida lawmakers passed a bill in February giving DeSantis effective control over a board that oversees municipal services and development in a special district in central Florida that encompasses Walt Disney World resort.
Before the takeover by DeSantis’ appointees, Disney pushed through changes to the special tax district agreement that limit the board’s actions for decades. The pact cements a 10-year comprehensive plan, adopted on July 15, 2022, that serves as a blueprint to guide future development. It gives Disney the option to add a fifth major theme park, two minor parks, 1 million square feet of retail space, and some 14,000 hotel rooms.
The agreement would remain in force until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, a legal provision used in contracts to extend a right in perpetuity.