TAMPA (WFLA) – Gov. Ron Desantis will ask the Florida State Legislature to reconsider a special exemption status for Walt Disney World when the legislature meets.
Before Cinderella’s Castle was built and before there was an EPCOT, Walt Disney himself arraigned for the state legislature in the 60s to pass the Reedy Creek Improvement Act.
The provision essentially allows Disney to be it’s own governing authority in Florida.
Unlike other theme parks in the state, when Disney wants to build a building, fill in a lake, or pave a road on their property, they don’t have to seek permits or approval. Rollins College Professor Emeritus Richard Foglesong wrote the book “Married to the Mouse” that examines the Reedy Creek District.
Foglesong explores the origins of the exemption and it’s impact on Florida.
“Other developers have to play by different rules, Universal Studios has to play by different rules and so Disney really does have an unfair business advantage,” said Foglesong.
He argues Disney obtained the special status by misleading the legislature at the time. He says Disney convinced elected officials they were building a development where people would live, work and play and in reality very few people live full time on Disney property.
“So, it’s really an old Florida story where a developer comes to town, comes to the state and says they’re going to do something, they want some guarantees in return, gets them and then doesn’t do that,” said Foglesong.
DeSantis threatened to end the special exemption after Disney executives expressed displeasure over Florida’s new parental rights education law, otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay bill”.
DeSantis said Disney crossed the line and should stay out of politics. State Representative Carlos Smith says DeSantis is abusing his power.
“The governor is using his authority to punish corporations and any other entity or person who speaks out against his agenda,” said Smith.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio backed DeSantis when asked about the issue on Tuesday.
“I think if it’s such a good idea then Disney has a ride to go and defend it and present why it’s such a good idea,” said Rubio.
Foglesong says he expects Disney will fight back against the loss of their special exemption.
“My guess is that Disney will fight in the court of public opinion,” said Foglesong.