Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs Reedy Creek legislation

DeSantis hosted a press conference Monday, Feb. 27, at Reedy Creek Fire Station No. 4, in Lake Buena Vista.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis began his press conference Monday, Feb. 27, by saying: “Today the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end. There's a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day."

DeSantis signed CS/HB 9-B, legislation that dissolves the Reedy Creek Improvement District and establishes the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District during the conference, held at Reedy Creek Fire Station No. 4, in Lake Buena Vista.

The legislation places the district into state receivership. It ends Disney’s self-governing status, as well as its exemption from Florida building code and fire-prevention code. It also ends the company’s exemption from state regulatory reviews and approvals.

 "Since the 1960s, they (Disney) have enjoyed privileges unlike any company or individual in the state of Florida has ever enjoyed," DeSantis said. "They, of course, controlled their own government right here in Central Florida. They had exemptions from laws that everybody else had to follow. ... They were able to get huge amounts of benefits without paying their fair share of taxes and even racked up $700 million worth of municipal debt.

"So, we had a little bit of a tussle last year over school legislation, and Disney came out against something that was really just about protecting young kids and making sure that students are able to go to school learning to read, write, add and subtract, and not having a teacher tell them that they can change their gender," he said. "I think most parents agree with that. But that was only a mild annoyance. What we came to realize is that after the dust settled on that, was you clearly had a movement within the corporation itself ... that said it's their job or goal to inject a lot of this sexuality into the programming for young kids.

"If you're going that way as a corporation, those are not the values that we want to promote in the state of Florida," DeSantis said. "We want to promote the safety of our students and the rights of our parents."

Furthermore, he said, the special exemptions Disney enjoyed under Reedy Creek never should have been allowed.

"We had this situation here that was basically indefensible from a policy perspective," DeSantis said. "How do you give one theme park its own government and then treat all the other theme parks differently? And so we believe that that was not good policy. We believe being joined at the hip with this one California-based company was not something that was justifiable or sustainable. And so we said we were going to do something about it."

Under the new legislation, Disney will operate under the same tax laws as any other business. Furthermore, DeSantis reiterated Disney’s municipal debt will be paid by Disney and not Florida taxpayers.

"I was not going to put taxpayers at risk," DeSantis said. "Right now, there will be no additional tax burden on any Floridian in Central Florida or otherwise. And in fact, for the whole decades this has been in effect, you had infrastructure feeding into the theme parks that were paid for by all the citizens of Central Florida, and Disney really got a free ride on that. Now, they can be taxed for that. So if anything, it's going to reduce the tax burden of people in Central Florida."

The new district will be led by a five-member, governor-appointed board. DeSantis has selected Tampa attorney Martin Garcia, of Tampa; Clearwater attorney Brian Aungst; The Gathering USA CEO Ron Peri; Central Florida attorney Michael Sasso; and Sarasota County School Board Member Bridget Ziegler.

“All these board members very much would like to see the type of entertainment that all families can appreciate,” DeSantis said.

The State Senate will be asked to confirm the appointments. The board is scheduled to meet for the first time Wednesday, March 8. One of the first items on the agenda will be to examine the compensation packages of first responders and find ways to reward them for outstanding performance, DeSantis said.

"I hope we will be able to get that done," he said.

After DeSantis signed the bill into law, members of the Reedy Creek Fire Department presented him with a custom-mounted ax.

After DeSantis signed the bill into law, members of the Reedy Creek Fire Department presented him with a custom-mounted ax.

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Dissolving Reedy Creek not legal until debt bond is paid

Judge dismisses Reddy Creek suit against DeSantis

Here's the plan to replace Reedy Creek Improvement District

Rep. Carolina Amesty issues Reedy Creek response



Michael Eng

As a child, Editor and Publisher Michael Eng collected front pages of the Kansas City Star during Operation Desert Storm, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would pursue a career in journalism. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his wife and three children, or playing drums around town. He’s also a sucker for dad jokes.

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