Florida gave Walt Disney close to self-government when it let the company form the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967. New legislation wrests control from Disney for municipal services and invests power in a new version of the district, which will be led by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).
The 1967 RCID legislation gave Disney the power to set taxes for its properties covering 25,000 acres of central Florida near Orlando. It was given power to oversee land use and environmental protections, provide public services like fire protection, water treatment, wastewater services, electrical power, trash collection and EPCOT building code regulation.
Critics contend the self-government and lack of state regulation that other businesses are subject to gave the House of Mouse an unfair economic advantage. Environmental Impact Statements, for example, may take up to years for companies subject to state oversight. Disney, on the other hand, did not need a princess to wave her magic wand because the RCID was even more powerful in regulatory matters.
The Daily Wire further reported:
Newly released legislation by Florida Republicans on Monday will allow Governor Ron DeSantis to appoint all five leaders of Disney’s tax district in Orlando and will officially rename the district.
The bill will turn the Reedy Creek Improvement District into the the Central Florida Tourism Oversight and will deliver on DeSantis’ promise last year to take over the district.
DeSantis’ office said that the special tax district, which has allowed Disney to govern themselves since 1967, turned the theme park into “an unaccountable Corporate Kingdom.”
“Florida is dissolving the Corporate Kingdom and beginning a new era of accountability and transparency,” DeSantis’ office said. “These actions ensure a state-controlled district accountable to the people instead of a corporate-controlled kingdom.”
DeSantis’ office said that the legislation:
- Permanently eliminates Disney’s self-governing status.
- Imposes a state-controlled, term-limited board – with members appointed by the governor – on Disney and its property.
- Allows the state to impose taxes on Disney for possible road projects outside of the District’s boundaries.
- Ensures that Disney pays the $700+ million in unsecured debt – not Florida taxpayers.
- Provides no control of the district to the leftist local government in Orange County, which threatened to leverage the situation to raise local taxes.
- Imposes Florida law so that Disney is no longer given preferential treatment.
- Prevents Disney from gaining more land by eminent domain.
- Creates an avenue to compel Disney to contribute to local infrastructure.
DeSantis’ office also released a list of some of the powers that Disney previously had when they governed themselves:
- Full self-governing status with a Disney-selected board.
- The ability to build airports and nuclear facilities.
- Acquisition of property beyond the District’s territory by condemnation and eminent domain.
- Unilateral boundary changes.
- No-bid procurements of construction contracts.
- Operating standards that varied from Florida Statute.
- Exemptions from regulatory reviews and approvals that other companies must navigate.
Jeff Vahle, President, Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement that the company was closely watching the legislation.
“We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” he said. “Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year.”
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