The heated standoff between The Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is about to get hotter, as filed a lawsuit in Florida claiming the Republican governor illegally voided an agreement that allegedly transferred certain powers of the company’s now-dissolved special district back to Disney.
“A targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech — now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights,” states the complaint, which was filed Tuesday in Florida federal court. “Today’s action is the latest strike: 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. This government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional. But the Governor and his allies have made clear they do not care and will not stop.”
Per The Hollywood Reporter, the deal was quietly signed Feb. 8, the day before the state legislature passed a bill reshaping the leadership structure and changing the name of Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. DeSantis taking control was meant to cap off a retaliatory move by Florida Republicans for Disney’s opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, signed in March 2022. Under the new bill, the governor has the authority to appoint every member of the special tax district’s five-member governing body. It was intended to cow Disney into keeping quiet on cultural issues or risk having the state disrupt company operations.