Disney Sues Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Over “Relentless” Theme Park Takeover Attempts
Disney is *not* backing down.
Disney has sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the right-wing governor’s attempts to take over the theme park district.
Disney alleges the governor has waged a “targeted campaign of government retaliation” after the entertainment company publicly opposed the anti-LGBTQ “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Disney also claims DeSantis has carried on a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” against the company amid a protracted fight over the controversial classroom bill.
The law bars instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation issues in kindergarten to third-grade classes, spanning the ages of about five to nine, which DeSantis has recently worked to expand to all grades.
The suit was filed minutes after a Disney World oversight board, appointed by DeSantis, voted to void a deal that placed theme park design and construction decisions in the company’s hands, according to the Associated Press.
The new lawsuit is just another layer in an ongoing feud between the rumored Republican presidential candidate and the powerhouse entertainment corporation. The feud seemingly began last year after Disney came out against DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
It wasn’t long before DeSantis worked to take control of the Disney district by signing a bill to end a special self-governing district which encompasses Walt Disney World.
“The corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said during a previous news conference. “There's a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”
DeSantis claimed that the special district enabled Disney to skirt tax rules and building codes. The new law would allow Florida legislature, hand picked by DeSantis, to essential take over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the government body that has given Disney unique powers in Central Florida for more than 50 years.
The lawsuit filed by Disney happened on the same day that the special district’s board of supervisors took action to undo a development deal that it says Disney struck to strip them of power.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, the special district released a 92-point document detailing why the agreement should be revoked, citing a separate agreement that wasn’t actually finalized by the time the development agreement was enacted and unlawfully delegates government authority to Disney, arguing the agreement’s benefits are “entirely one-sided” toward the theme parks.
“The government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional,” Disney alleged in the civil complaint in U.S. District Court in northern Florida.
“At the Governor’s bidding, the State’s oversight board has purported to ‘void’ publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts, which had laid the foundation for billions of Disney’s investment dollars and thousands of jobs,” Disney’s suit said.
“But the Governor and his allies have made clear they do not care and will not stop, it continued. “The Governor recently declared that his team would not only ‘void the development agreement’ — just as they did today — but also planned ‘to look at things like taxes on the hotels,’ ‘tolls on the roads,’ ‘developing some of the property that the district owns’ with ‘more amusement parks,’ and even putting a ‘state prison’ next to Walt Disney World.”
Disney also stated that they regretted that the feud had come down to suing DeSantis and other state leaders, but they were left with no choice.
“But having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials,” the suit said.
The DeSantis-picked board also voted for a resolution to effectively ban Disney’s Orlando-area parks from imposing future coronavirus-related restrictions. Disney is asking the court to rule that the board’s legislative step was unlawful and unenforceable.
DeSantis spokeswoman, Taryn Fenske, responded to the lawsuit, saying, “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.”