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Bill filed to replace Disney's Reedy Creek with district run by governor's appointees

A bill filed Monday would replace Disney's self-governing Reedy Creek Improvement District with a new district controlled by appointees of the governor.
Photo: Pixabay

A Republican bill filed Monday would hand the reins of Walt Disney World's Reedy Creek Improvement District in Central Florida to a board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Rep. Fred Hawkins of St. Cloud filed House Bill 9B as the two-week legislative special session got underway.

Under the bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis will appoint a board of five people to take over the roads, drainage, utilities, fire protection, building codes and bond financing that Walt Disney World built through a special district established by the Legislature in 1967.

DeSantis had promised to cancel Disney’s "corporate kingdom" after the company spoke out against a bill banning instruction about LGBTQ people in early grades.

The bill would make sure the district, a government entity, continues to pay its more than $900 million of long-term debt.

UCF political science professor Aubrey Jewett says the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District would maintain the infrastructure and services for tourists coming to Disney World.

"The big difference will be that the governing board of this newly named district will be appointed by the governor and not Disney, and thus they may not always have  Disney's best interest at heart," he said.

Jewett says it gives DeSantis and the Legislature a way to "try to keep Disney under their thumb."

GOP leaders say Disney should not get special treatment as a government unto itself.

In a prepared statement, Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said Disney is folowing the draft legislation "which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District."

He added, "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."

Updated: February 7, 2023 at 9:04 AM EST
This article has been updated to include comment from a Disney executive. It also makes clear that Reedy Creek is a government entity.
Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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