Disney Narrows Claims Against Ron DeSantis in Florida Special District Fight

First Amendment violations take center stage in the showdown between the theme park giant and the Florida governor

Walt Disney World
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While the fight over Disney World’s special district near Orlando, Florida, continues, the scope of the dispute has narrowed.

In a complaint filed Tuesday, Disney has dropped all claims against Gov. Ron DeSantis except those that allege First Amendment violations.

Gone now from the filing are Contracts Clause, Takings Clause and Due Process Clause violations. The suit will now focus chiefly around the Florida governor and what they see as retaliatory measures that were enacted against the company following their response to DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

In response to Disney finally speaking out against the bill (after much hemming and hawing by then-CEO Bob Chapek), DeSantis began a campaign that would weaken and then remove Disney’s powers over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a self-governing body that had been in place in Florida since the late 1960s. (Back then Florida was attempting to woo Disney away from developing a ski resort in California.)

Under Reedy Creek, Disney maintained its own roads and bridges, along with a complicated series of canals (due to wetland and other environmental regulations) and can oversee larger projects related to infrastructure and new development and construction.

DeSantis took on Reedy Creek as part of his vendetta against the company, even though he now admits that he got married on Walt Disney World property. Earlier this year the Reedy Creek Improvement District’s board was disbanded and a new quorum established in its place (filled with people installed by DeSantis).

They also changed the name from the Reedy Creek Improvement District to the marble-mouthed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Of course, since then there have been a series of lawsuits volleyed back and forth, relating in part to bills that were passed shortly before DeStantis took over and, of course, this ongoing issue of retaliatory behavior by the governor (who has presidential ambitions).

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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