Disney files lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over 'retaliatory' actions against Walt Disney World
ORLANDO, Fla. - Disney filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis following months of legislative actions by the state that Disney has described as retaliatory and anti-business.
The suit comes the same day that a development agreement Disney signed with the then-Reedy Creek Improvement District was revoked by the new board of the renamed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
The 77-page lawsuit calls out DeSantis' efforts to void the theme parks contracts as "a targeted campaign of government retaliation" that will now threaten Disney's business operations by also jeopardizing its economic future. The lawsuit also mentions every member DeSantis appointed to the Board.
In the lawsuit, Disney calls DeSantis' action retaliatory and said they had no choice but to file the suit.
Disney is asking the court to keep its original contract that was signed with the former Board in place, and asks that the new legislative actions by the new board and the state legislature be declared "unlawful and unenforceable." Disney is also asking that its attorney and court fees be covered, as well as any other relief the court deems "just and proper."
In response, Gov. DeSantis' Office said in a statement late Wednesday: "We are unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government or maintain special privileges not held by other businesses in the state. This lawsuit is yet another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of the Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law."
In March, Disney signed an unexpected development agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District Board before the new board starts its term. Disney defended its actions saying the development agreement was signed at an open meeting. The DeSantis-appointed Board chastised the move.
You can read the lawsuit below.
In January, DeSantis announced a plan to introduce a bill into the state's legislature that would replace Disney's special self-governing power with a state-run board. In March, that new board met for the first time.
The takeover of the Disney district by DeSantis and the Florida Legislature began last year when the entertainment giant, facing intense pressure, publicly opposed "Don’t Say Gay," which bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as well as lessons deemed not age-appropriate.
On March 22, DeSantis expanded his law moving to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, expanding the controversial Parental Rights in Education law, which critics call the "Don't Say Gay" law, adding more fuel to the ongoing feud.
At the governor's request, the Republican-dominated Legislature voted in February to dissolve a self-governing district controlled by Walt Disney World over its properties in Florida and eventually gave DeSantis control of the board. The move was widely seen as a punishment for the company opposing the law.
This board had overseen municipal services in Disney's theme park properties and was instrumental in the company's decision to build near Orlando in the 1960s.
In March, DeSantis' new Disney World board met for the first time hinting at future controversial actions the board may take including prohibiting COVID-19 restrictions at Disney World and recommending the elimination of two cities that were created after the Florida Legislature in 1967 approved the theme park resort’s self-governance.
In April, DeSantis said he would look into taxing Disney World's hotels, imposing tolls on its roads, and developing its property in response to the battle.