Disney World has been embroiled in a battle over the Reedy Creek Improvement District with Florida lawmakers since a bill was introduced (and later signed into law) to dissolve the district and its special tax status.
The decision from lawmakers (including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis) came after Disney spoke out against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law — referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” Law by dissidents — and will take effect in June 2023. With Disney’s recent CEO shake-up, though, the future of the Reedy Creek Improvement District may not be so bleak after all.
Help us, Bob Iger, you’re our only hope — that’s what insiders briefed on Florida state lawmakers’ new plan believe, according to a new report from the Financial Times. The compromise “would allow Disney to keep the [Reedy Creek] arrangement largely in place with a few modifications.”
In April, Florida lawmakers voted to revoke Disney’s special tax district — established in 1968 — after the company spoke out against the Parental Rights in Education bill before it was signed into law. The dissolution of Reedy Creek is slated for June 2023, but since Bob Chapek was fired and Bob Iger has taken over as Disney CEO, that could change.
The Republican lawmaker who drafted the Reedy Creek dissolution bill, Randy Fine, shared that the removal of Chapek as CEO made it more likely ‘that something will get sorted out’ over the district.
He continued, “It’s easier to shift policy when you don’t have to defend the old policy… Chapek screwed up, but Bob Iger doesn’t have to own that screw-up.”
Since returning as CEO, Iger hasn’t shared much about the battle for Reedy Creek, but did say that he had “no idea” what the ramifications are from the dissolution “in terms of the business itself” and that “The state of Florida has been very important to us for a long time, and we have been very important to the state of Florida.”
At an employee Town Hall meeting, Iger said he needed to “get up to speed” on the issue and that he was “sorry to see [Disney] get dragged into battle” over Reedy Creek.
Back in February 2022 when it was first introduced, Iger publicly denounced the “Don’t Say Gay” law, warning that it would “put vulnerable, young LGTBQ people in Jeopardy.” But it was Chapek at the helm of Disney at the time, who no doubt got on DeSantis’ bad side after the company shared a statement opposing the bill — and later stopped all political contributions in Florida.
Florida Democratic state senator Linda Stewart explained that the law that would dissolve Reedy Creek “is a tax increase” and that she didn’t “think [DeSantis] understood how badly this could go for the state of Florida and the counties and the cities.”
One potential compromise currently being discussed would revoke Disney’s rights to build an airport or nuclear power plant on the property — something it is not likely to use, anyway.
Stewart shared another solution would allow DeSantis to appoint two members to the board and said, “These compromises can be done with the least amount of impact. We can’t let the governor look like he lost.”
Luckily, there is plenty of time to negotiate as the law would not go into effect until next summer, and a Republican senator is reportedly working on a draft bill that would allow for compromise. A source in Florida politics shared with the Financial Times, “It seems like Disney and the legislature have motivation to make a deal. Nobody wants a train wreck.”
While the future of the Reedy Creek Improvement District remains uncertain for now, it’s possible that a compromise can be reached that would benefit all parties, and the return of Bob Iger may have something to do with that. It’s expected that the details of a new district will be finalized during the next state legislative session that begins in March 2023.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has denied the report that lawmakers are considering reversing their decision to dissolve Reedy Creek, according to NBC News. In a statement, the spokesperson said DeSantis “does not make U-turns” and that he “was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to one company through the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
“We will have an even playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly owes no special favors to one company. Disney’s debts will not fall on the taxpayers of Florida. A plan is in the works and will be released soon,” the governor’s office said.
We’ll continue to keep you updated on the status of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and more news from The Walt Disney Company — so stay tuned to DFB for more!
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