Due to the worsening hot feud, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he plans to work with the Legislature to repeal the Reedy Creek agreement with Disney that stripped the new board of power and consider imposing new hotel taxes and tolls at Disney World.
“Come hell or high water, we’re going to make sure Florida’s policy carries the sun,” DeSantis said in a speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan on Thursday night. and was first reported by Politico. “And for them to keep trying to do things. But in the end we’re going to win every issue that involves Disney, I can tell you that.”
During a question-and-answer session at the conservative Michigan college, DeSantis called the entertainment giant and the state’s largest single-site employer a “joke.”
Disney is “acting like they caught one in the state,” DeSantis said.
“But now that Disney has reopened this issue, we’re not just going to void the development agreement that they tried to do, we’re going to look at things like taxes on hotels, we’re going to look at things like tolls. on the roads,” he said. “We’ll look at things like developing some of the district-owned properties.”
Disney did not respond to a request for comment.
A previous unsigned statement from Disney said, “all agreements signed between Disney and the District are applicable, and have been discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with the Florida Government’s law of Sunshine.”
The Legislature passed a bill in February that removed control of the Reedy Creek special district company after more than 50 years and allowed DeSantis to appoint its board. But at the last meeting of the outgoing board on Feb. 8, its members quietly approved a 30-year development agreement and restrictive covenants with Disney designed to last for decades.
The deals were released publicly in legal notices, and DeSantis’ elected board members admitted they were essentially powerless to manage future development.
Raising hotel taxes or putting tolls on roads will hurt consumers, not Disney, says State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.
“It hits a point of absurdity,” he said. “It doesn’t create a level playing field. It’s about DeSantis looking big and bad next to Disney.
If DeSantis wants accountability, he should push the Legislature to pass consolidated reporting for corporate income taxes that would prevent corporations from using accounting tricks that avoid taxes, Eskamani said.
Disney could challenge DeSantis and the Legislature in court if they move to void the development agreement on the grounds that they void an existing contract, said Jacob Schumer, a Central Florida attorney who specializes in the law. of local government. If lawmakers single out Disney, the corporation could also argue that the action violates the equal protection clause, he said.
“If the Legislature targets an existing contract and specifically harms the contract, that’s a constitutional problem,” Schumer said. “Returning and voiding a contract is very difficult to defend in court. I think Disney will have a stronger case.”
It is also possible that the state may argue that the agreement was not made in accordance with state law. Schumer said he found nothing in his review that the state could use to void the contract.
DeSantis and his allies may have an easier path to getting a “declaration of strict covenants” thrown out, he said. That document’s restrictions included a stipulation that the district would not make aesthetic changes to its buildings without Disney’s review.
DeSantis’ threat is the latest in a back-and-forth battle between the state and the Walt Disney Co. which began when former CEO Bob Chapek criticized the so-called “don’t say gay” law last year that limited teaching about sex. gender orientation and identity in public schools.
In his speech Thursday, DeSantis also talked about the scope of his power, as demonstrated by his actions against Disney.
“Some governors in this country, they don’t want to make decisions,” he said. “They’re hoping that it’s all kind of messed up before it gets to their desk. That’s not me. I mean, I’m very active. I want to be involved. When the Legislature doesn’t act enough, I’m going to step up and push.”
“I don’t know what SOB will succeed me, but they won’t,” DeSantis added. “Because I take all the meat off the bone.”
DeSantis’ Reedy Creek board said Disney stripped it of its power
Disney vs. DeSantis: Florida Republicans bash the Mouse, but is it just bluster?
New Disney Reedy Creek board chair promises ‘broader representation’
DeSantis puts GOP donor, Moms for Liberty founder on Disney Reedy Creek board
Pulse of Politics
Get the latest political news updates from Central Florida and across the state.
Move Mickey, DeSantis gets broad powers in taking over Reedy Creek
DeSantis signed legislation removing Disney World’s control of Reedy Creek
Disney World’s Reedy Creek firefighters endorsed DeSantis despite the district’s dismissal
Reedy Creek discusses Disney expansion as DeSantis fights back
‘There’s a new sheriff in town.’ House panel OKs remake of Disney’s Reedy Creek
DeSantis touts Disney move as proof he’ll fight ‘woke’ corporations
Disney will host a gay rights summit as DeSantis declares victory over The Mouse