DeSantis Threatens Disney’s Special Governing District

Ron DeSantis

The latest escalation in the feud between Governor DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company over the Parental Rights in Education bill involves the possibility of repealing a law that gives Disney special governing privileges.

The  Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) was formed in 1967 to serve the interests of Disney by a special Act of the Florida Legislature and subsequently validated by the Florida Supreme Court.

The arrangements allow Disney to shape the park environment without government oversight.

Richard Foglesong, a Rollins College professor, told the The Washington Post that “It’s legal magic. The Reedy Creek government can regulate land use, provide police and fire services, license the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, build roads, lay sewer lines, construct waste-treatment plants, carry out flood projects – even build an airport or nuclear plant, all without local or state approval.”

Now the debate over a bill regulating what is taught to elementary students could make the RCID disappear.

“I would say any special privileges that are in law I would like to get rid of generally,” DeSantis said at a press conference last Thursday. “I think in this particular case with Disney, I just don’t think you have very many people in the legislature anymore who are going to be able to defend a lot of what has been done over many years to really have them almost govern themselves in some of these things. That was probably never appropriate to start, but is certainly not appropriate now at this point.”

The purpose of the RCID was to support and administer certain aspects of the economic development and tourism within the 25,000 acres of land within the boundaries of the district. The RCID also exempted Disney from future land use regulations.

For example, in 1977 an Florida attorney general opinion exempted Disney from a new growth management law that would have required Disney to address the regional impact of the EPCOT development within the RCID.

The opinion noted, “This section specifically exempts the Reedy Creek Improvement District from state land use regulation laws, ‘now or hereafter enacted.’ This would include Chapter 380.06, F. S., developments of regional impact. Therefore, by law the Reedy Creek Improvement District is exempt from the jurisdiction of Chapter 380.06, F. S.”

DeSantis has acknowledged that any repeal of the RCID would have to start with the Florida Legislature. And there appears to be some support.

On March 30th, Florida House member Spencer Roach tweeted,  “Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government.”

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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Disney” by Bastien Nvs.

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