Florida Governor Signs Bill Voiding Disney Development Agreements

Florida Governor Signs Bill Voiding Disney Development Agreements

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that nullifies development agreements made by Disney before the governor appointed new supervisors to oversee the company’s Orlando parks. The deal is the latest development in a yearlong conflict between Disney and DeSantis, who is widely believed to be preparing for a 2024 presidential campaign. The bill was passed by the Republican-majority Legislature and followed a vote by DeSantis’ board members to invalidate the agreements, claiming they were made unlawfully. However, Disney insists the contracts were created to secure long-term development plans in the face of mounting tension with DeSantis and his allies.

The feud between DeSantis and Disney began more than a year ago when Disney spoke out against a Republican-backed Florida bill that restricted classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill became known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics. Shortly after, DeSantis and his allies moved to dissolve the special tax district that had allowed Walt Disney World to govern its own operations since the 1960s. Although the district was ultimately kept intact, it was renamed and the five-member board was replaced with figures appointed by DeSantis.

In March, the new board accused Disney of crafting last-minute deals that undermined its authority. Disney maintains that the contracts were made publicly and that they do not compromise the board’s oversight of the district’s operations. Disney sued DeSantis and the board members, alleging that the governor was leading a campaign of political retaliation. The board countersued days later.

Despite criticism from members of both parties, including former President Trump, DeSantis has persisted in his fight with Disney. In addition to nullifying the development agreements, the Florida Legislature passed a measure requiring the state transportation department to inspect Walt Disney World’s monorails. Critics like Linda Stewart, a Democrat who represents Florida’s 13th Senate district, have questioned the timing of the measure, pointing out that Disney has not had any significant safety issues with its monorail system since 2009.

DeSantis signed the bill voiding Disney’s deals on the final day of Florida’s 2023 legislative session. With Republican supermajorities in both chambers, the Legislature has been able to pass bills that support DeSantis’ conservative agenda, with a focus on divisive cultural issues that could resonate in a Republican primary race. DeSantis is seen as a potential rival to former President Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.


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