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Revenge Plot on Disney Amplifies – But It’s Unlikely Special Treatment Will Be Taken Away

It’s the news we were all expecting but still cannot fathom.

The Florida House of Representatives has today passed a controversial bill that would dissolve Disney’s special treatment ruling in the state.

Amid a political boycott of The Walt Disney Company, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ revenge plot against Disney is now on the verge of dismantling Walt Disney World’s bubble, the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

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Credit: Disney

Lawmakers in the Florida state House joined the state Senate on Thursday, April 21, in voting to approve a bill that, starting in June 2023, would revoke the special self-governing privileges afforded to the Walt Disney World Resort. It now heads to Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for his signature.

The move has come as retaliation for Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s critical stance on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill passed last month. Disney initially shied away from making a public statement regarding Florida’s new bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which many people believe targets the LGBTQ+ community and restricts conversations about gender and LGBTQ+ identities in schools.

Disney’s aggressive stance caused a war with Florida’s governing body. And now, after the House vote, Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista might be losing its special treatment after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized Disney, saying, “They do not run this state. They do not control this state.”

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Credit: ABC

According to sources, no debate occurred after chaos erupted between the Democrat and Republican parties. Democrats were rightly outraged by DeSantis’ redistricting map that cuts the number of minority districts in half, with the Governor’s Disney retaliation deflecting attention on this matter. The redistricting bill will eliminate two Black-access Congressional Districts.

Democrats then launched a sit-in protest, which led to Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls canceling all debates, turning off the Wi-Fi, and ejecting all press.

Lawmakers ultimately voted 70 to 38 to back the measure. The Senate previously approved the measure 23 -16, to repeal Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) shared a video of the House of Representatives voting on the bill on Twitter:

The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday gave final passage to a bill that could dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District at Walt Disney World.

According to Florida state statute 189.072, a majority of the Reedy Creek residents would have to vote in favor of dissolving the district. Of course, Ron DeSantis will sign the bill when it comes to his desk, but will it actually mean anything for the Walt Disney World Resort? Unlikely.

Landowners and residents are likely, experts say, to vote against repealing the Reedy Creek District as the move would cost taxpayers thousands. State Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer warned that residents of Orange County and Osceola County may have to assume Disney’s liabilities of anywhere between $1 billion and $2 billion if the Reedy Creek Improvement District is dissolved.

For over 50 years, Walt Disney World has been able to reside in Florida unregulated, acting as its own “government” in a way. The act involved creating a special taxing district that acts with the same authority as a county government. Local taxpayers – residents of Orange County and Osceola County – do not have to pay for building or maintaining Disney’s essential services.

The 1967 act meant that Walt Disney World and other landowners pay for local municipal services like water, electricity, fire protection, and emergency medical services instead of taxpayers.

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Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department

Farmer also explained that local government entities, by law, have to pick up the debt of special districts that are dissolved. The Reedy Creek Improvement District has a long-term bonded debt of $977,215,801, according to its 2021 annual financial report. Farmer estimated that “the debt service alone would amount to $580 per person. Family of four just got hit with a $2,200 tax bill.”

So, when it comes to Reedy Creek residents voting to dissolve the district – it doesn’t seem financially sensible.

Disney is Central Florida’s primary economic engine, a 2019 study by Oxford Economics found. Walt Disney World’s 38-mile-long Resort featuring 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), water parks, Resort Hotels, Disney Springs, and more produces $5.8 billion in state tax revenue from $75 billion in activity – and supports 463,000 jobs.

Disney Tips will keep you posted on any further developments in this wild story.

About Melissa Cannioto

Melissa is an author, adventurer, and chatterbox, who loves to enjoy Disney's theme parks with a Mickey Premium Bar in hand! A British native, she has traveled the world seeking new experiences, and now resides in Florida with her Air Force pilot husband. Find her children's book at @thebearandthehug_book