The House of Mouse strikes back through legal battles



Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been causing unrest among fans of the Walt Disney World amusement parks as he seeks to regulate the authority bestowed upon them through their control of The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (formerly Reedy Creek Improvement District). Disney was granted authority over this special district to allow them to more effectively manage their operations by eliminating the need to report to a local governing body. The five members of the district’s governing board were senior employees of the corporation. The Disney-run oversight board had the authority to control municipal services and public infrastructure, allowing Walt Disney World to streamline its construction projects which, up until early 2023, could include large facilities such as stadiums, airports, and even nuclear power plants.  

Over the past few months, following public statements from Disney speaking against legislation passed by DeSantis, politicians in the Florida state legislature passed a bill that revoked Disney’s authority over the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The bill replaced all of Disney’s appointed board members with DeSantis’s allies, giving the state of Florida full authority over the district and renaming it to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. This legislation came in place of a complete revocation of the special district, which was criticized for being a severe overreaction on behalf of DeSantis in response to Disney speaking out against his recent “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a piece of legislation that limited LGBTQ themes in the classroom.  

The state government has sole control over the establishment of special districts, and it is within DeSantis’ authority to revoke privileges from a district if the state deems it not beneficial. Despite this, Disney filed suit against the state of Florida claiming that the state of Florida violated their constitutional right to freedom of expression by retaliating against them for voicing a critical opinion of a bill spearheaded by DeSantis. 

The state of Florida claims that the reasoning behind their takeover of the special district has to do with the former Disney-appointed board members violating both terms of their agreement with the state and constitutional and common law. While it is within his authority to revoke their control of the district if they violated the terms claimed in the suit, DeSantis was not justified in pursuing suit against the corporation because the offenses that they were cited committing are not worth putting the strain that will be faced by the citizens of Florida after all legal battles have been endured.  

Disney is justifiably claiming that his actions were an excessive retaliation that violated their freedom of expression and DeSantis is demonstrating that he will take petty actions to exercise his authority over companies who oppose his authority. His actions may limit the ability for Disney to carry out certain projects that could benefit Florida’s tourism economy, so DeSantis did not make the best choice for the people of Florida. His restrictions on Disney’s authority will prevent them from operating with the liberties that they have since the park’s conception. DeSantis’ decision has surely upset Disney fans who fear that their experience will be limited and constrained by the state of Florida’s authority. His extreme retaliatory measures are bound to have more negative repercussions than potential positives for the people of Florida.