Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held at the Tampa Convention Center on July 22, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
OAN National Political Correspondent, Neil W. McCabe.
UPDATED 9:10 AM PT – Tuesday, February 7, 2023
(TALLAHASSEE, FLA.) Less than one year after Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis pledged to take away the special privileges the Walt Disney Company enjoys through its independent Reedy Creek Improvement District municipality, Sunshine State lawmakers are ready to give the governor victory.
The governor spelled out his thought process at a Jan. 12 press conference at the The Villages.
“Disney no longer have its own government,” DeSantis said. “Disney will live under the same laws as anybody else, and Disney will pay the debts and taxes—and that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
With the legislature in a special session, the legislative language is emerging to undo the Reedy Creek structure created in 1967, which among other things gave Disney the authority to build its own nuclear power plant and airports, a source close to the governor’s office said to One America News.
The bill dissolves the district as currently constituted and eliminated the Disney’s self-governing status, the source said.
Under the new rules, a board, whose members have fixed terms, and appointed by the governor would take over control from the company, the source said.
In addition, Disney would be on the hook for its $700 million unsecured debt and subject to taxation to finance road and infrastructure projects.
DeSantis pressed for state control, instead of local control by Orange County.
One of the final considerations was whether the new Disney district would be under the control of Orange County or the state government.
The governor told reporters at his media event at The Villages, he came to it with an open mind.
“The question was always: It is going to be under state control or local control,” DeSantis said. “I actually, initially when we did the bill to sunset it—we knew we were going to take additional action—I was agnostic between them, but then what happened, you had Orange County saying they were going to raise people’s taxes by thousands of dollars.”
The county’s attitude concerned him, he said.
“Do I trust them to handle the municipal debt and all this stuff?” he asked.
The governor said he did not have confidence in the Orange County, so he could not let them take the reins. “It’s going to be a state-controlled board and there’s absolutely going to be accountability.”
Previous legislation gave Disney powers beyond regular municipalities
In practice, Disney used the Reedy Creek name to buy up the land for its Disney World amusement park and resort, so as not to clue in the sellers that Hollywood money was in play.
Once the Disney World opened Oct. 1, 1971, Disney ran its park and other businesses inside its municipality, including fire, police and other public safety functions without elections or outside interference.
The company’s Disney-appointed board issued no-bid contracts, seized private property through eminent domain and operating exempt from the regulatory reviews that apply to other businesses in the state.
All that ends when the governor signs the bill into law.
Neil W. McCabe is a national political correspondent based in Tallahassee, Florida. Before his current assignment, Neil was covered the White House and Capitol Hill for OAN. He is a Bronze Star veteran of the Iraq War and continues to serve an a senior public affairs NCO in the Army Reserve. Follow him at Twitter: @neilwmccabe2 GETTR & TruthSocial: @ReporterMcCabe