Florida legislature passes bill to scrap Disney's special status: Travel Weekly

The Florida legislature has taken steps to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the taxing district that governs the area where the Walt Disney World Resort sits.

The Florida Senate passed the bill Wednesday, and the House passed its companion bill Thursday. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is likely to sign it.

DeSantis began the effort to eliminate Disney’s tax district in response to the company’s public opposition to recently passed legislation that prevents public school teachers from instructing about gender identity or sexual orientation to children in kindergarten through third grade.

Before the measure became law, Disney CEO Bob Chapek sent an email to employees stating Disney’s support of the LGBTQ+ community. He noted that Disney LGBTQ+ leaders were disappointed that the company had not issued a public statement condemning the legislation.  

Facing backlash, Chapek then came out publicly against the law.

During Disney’s annual shareholders meeting in March, Chapek said the company had been against the bill from the start, but had hoped its behind-the-scenes influence with lawmakers would prevent its passage. 

He announced that Disney paused political donations in Florida, and he apologized that the company hadn’t initially taken a public stand against the bill.

“I understand our original approach, no matter how well intended, didn’t quite get the job done,” Chapek said. “But we’re committed to support the community going forward.” 

DeSantis responded by accusing Disney of being a “woke” corporation. He subsequently threatened to dissolve Disney’s special taxing district.

Reedy Creek was created in 1967, four years before Disney World opened to the public. It encompasses two municipalities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, and provides public services (from fire protection and emergency medical services to wastewater services) within its bounds. Disney funds its own operations by levying taxes and fees. 

The taxing district also essentially gives Disney nearly full control of its 38.5-square-mile property in Florida.

According to the RCID, its creation ensured essential services would be provided within the district without burdening the residents of Orange and Osceola Counties with additional taxes.

Senate Bill 4C would dissolve “independent special districts” in the state created prior to 1968, effective June 1, 2023. 

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