Florida Judge Dismisses Taxpayer Lawsuit Over Revoking Disney’s Special Tax District

Federal judge threw out the suit just a week after it was filed

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A Florida Judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of Florida taxpayers against Gov. Ron DeSantis to block the dissolution of Disney’s special tax district, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, claiming the state violated their rights and will burden them with $1 billion in Disney’s bond debt.

The judge ruled the taxpayers don’t have the right to bring the lawsuit and tossed it out just a week after it was filed.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga issued a five page order rejecting jurisdiction, “Plaintiffs do not meet this standard. The challenged law does not apply to them, they do not allege direct harm as a result of the challenged law, and they do not plausibly allege any credible threat of direct harm in the future. Plaintiffs’ theory of standing is that the elimination of the Reedy Creek Improvement District might result in financial harm to Plaintiffs by virtue of a tax increase that has not yet been enacted.”

The Judge added, “That indirect and highly  speculative alleged injury cannot support federal jurisdiction. Senate Bill 4-C itself will not raise Plaintiffs’ taxes. Again — it is worth emphasizing — the bill does not apply to Plaintiffs at all.”

The plaintiffs, who are identified as Michael Foronda, Edward Foronda and Vivian Gorsky and are described as property owners living near Reedy Creek in the surrounding Orange and Osceola counties, filed a complaint in Florida federal court last week, alleging that stripping Disney of its special district designation would “move these major regulatory burdens unto the county, thereby increasing the Plaintiff’s taxes, and will cause significant injury to plaintiffs.”

“Ron DeSantis has been clear on his intended punishment of Disney, although he claims the elimination of special districts will not affect central Florida taxpayers,” the suit reads. “Taxpayer lawsuits such as this one are meant to check and restrict official government misconduct.”

The Judge also noted in the ruling that the Florida taxpayers “do not plausibly allege they have suffered any concrete injury as a result of the alleged violation of Disney’s First Amendment rights, and nothing in the Complaint shows Plaintiffs have a close relationship with Disney.”

The Judge added, “Even more critically, Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that Disney faces any hindrance in asserting its own First Amendment rights. Far from it: Plaintiffs expressly allege that they ‘expect Disney and the State of Florida to litigate this matter for a significant period of time[.]’ That fact alone warrants dismissal.”

Since 1967, Disney has received tax and regulation exemptions for an area known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The exemption in effect allows Disney to govern itself on Disney World grounds, including having its own fire department and board of supervisors, as well as the ability to oversee land and environmental regulations. But DeSantis signed a bill into law last month that would end the privileges.

DeSantis’ passage of the law has widely been seen as retaliation against Disney for opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, with him railing against “woke corporations” under the belief that they have an agenda to push ideas about sexuality into their programming and saying that he didn’t want such companies getting “special treatment” in the state.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.