Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Bill to Give Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Power to Cancel Reedy Creek Contracts

On Friday Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill that gives the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District the authority to nullify contracts made by its predecessor, the Reedy Creek Improvement District. SB 1604 was passed by the House of Representatives in Florida on Wednesday before being sent to the Governor’s desk.

This is one of several initiatives that are being spearheaded by Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders against The Walt Disney Company with the primary goal of taking control of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. This amendment brought out opposition from Democrats who worry that legislating the ability to cancel contracts could create problems moving forward. However, these concerns were overwritten by Republican legislators’ votes and now the Governor’s signature.

“When are we going to stop playing whack-a-mouse because our Governor is big mad that he got outsmarted by Disney?” said Rep. Anna Eskamani. She argued that the legislation is punitive to Disney. “Beyond the Disney drama, let’s just talk about the notion of canceling a contract that you don’t like. … This is a moment where we just got to call it out for what it is.”

On the other side, Rep. Toby Overdorf had a different opinion and said that Disney wasn’t playing by the rules. 

“You know what? They did not follow the law,” Overdorf said. “So what do we have to do? We have to now make sure that we have guardrails so that the laws are followed.”

Here is the specific language from SB 1604:

343 special district is precluded from complying with the terms of
344 any development agreement, or any other agreement for which the
345 development agreement serves in whole or part as consideration,
346 which is executed within 3 months preceding the effective date
347 of a law modifying the manner of selecting members of the
348 governing body of the independent special district from election
349 to appointment or from appointment to election. The newly
350 elected or appointed governing body of the independent special
351 district shall review within 4 months of taking office any
352 development agreement or any other agreement for which the
353 development agreement serves in whole or part as consideration
354 and shall, after such review, vote on whether to seek readoption
355 of such agreement. This subsection shall apply to any
356 development agreement that is in effect on, or is executed
357 after, the effective date of this section. This subsection
358 expires July 1, 2028, unless reviewed and saved from repeal
359 through reenactment by the Legislature.

The moves by governmental leaders in Florida come with accusations that Disney has not played by the rules. Disney contends that it has played by the rules that were in place when it signed a developer agreement that has become quite controversial in Florida. The facts about this can be read here.

This isn’t the only legislation that is moving its way through the Florida State Legislature that is focused on Disney and Walt Disney World Resort. There is another bill that was passed by the Florida State Legislature that would give the state oversight power for the monorail system at Walt Disney World Resort. 

Along with the legislative paths being taken in Florida, there are also two court cases now filed by Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District regarding this controversy. The controversy initially began after Disney opposed a “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year. After this, Governor DeSantis publicly came out multiple times against “woke Disney” and vowed to retaliate and potentially control the content that Disney creates. Disney CEO Bob Iger has argued that the actions of DeSantis are “anti-business” and also “anti-Florida.” 

What will happen next could be anybody’s guess as this controversy with Disney continues to be an issue in Florida. As it continues to rage on, Republican leaders both in the state and nationally are increasingly voicing concern and encouraging Governor DeSantis to negotiate with Disney to reach a solution. However, it seems that Governor DeSantis is determined to win and not negotiate. Daps Magic will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available.