Govt. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference in the Cabinet Room at the close of the 2023 Florida legislative session on Friday, May 5, 2023.
Alicia Devine | Tallahassee Democrat via AP
Florida. On Friday, Ron DeSantis signed legislation that effectively eliminates development agreements Disney It struck shortly before the governor selected a new board of supervisors to oversee the company’s parks in Orlando.
The development deals are at the center of the latest battle in a year-long war between Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers, and DeSantis, a Republican likely preparing for a 2024 presidential campaign.
The governor’s office confirmed the signing of the law in a press release that did not include any other information or notes on the legislation.
The bill, which passed the state’s Republican-majority legislature just a day earlier, follows DeSantis board members voting to void the deals, claiming they were made illegally. Disney says the contracts are designed to help secure long-term development plans amid rising tensions with DeSantis and his allies.
Members of both parties, including Trump, have criticized DeSantis’ fight with Disney.
“This feud between DeSantis and Disney is insane,” Linda Stewart, a Democrat who represents Florida’s 13th Senate district, told CNBC. “Every day there seems to be another way of trying to make things more difficult for Disney, but all they’re doing is costing taxpayers money to hire lawyers to defend what they’re doing.”
Stewart voted against the latter legislation.
Disney sued DeSantis and board members last week, alleging a campaign of political retaliation spearheaded by the governor. The council returned a few days later.
Disney declined to comment.
The spat began more than a year ago, after Disney denounced a Republican-backed Florida bill that would limit segregation discussion of sexual orientation and gender ideology, which critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Like Me.”
Soon after, DeSantis and his allies moved to dissolve the special taxation district that has allowed Walt Disney World to essentially run its operations since the 1960s.
The 25,000-acre estate, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, was eventually kept intact — but given a new name, and its five-member board of directors replaced with numbers chosen by DeSantis.
In March, the new board of directors accused Disney of crafting 11-hour deals that undermined its power. Disney says its communications are openly fraudulent, and that it does not undermine the board’s oversight of the region’s operations.
The company’s federal civil lawsuit asks the court to “prevent the state of Florida from weaponizing government power to operate in private business.”
DeSantis signed a bill nullifying the Disney deals on the final day of the 2023 Florida legislature session. The governor, who was resoundingly re-elected in the November midterm elections, is seen as the biggest potential challenger to former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. .
The legislature, which holds Republican supermajorities in both houses, has passed bills that have helped enact DeSantis’ broad conservative agenda — with an eye toward divisive cultural issues that could reverberate in the Republican primary race.
DeSantis has continued his attacks on Disney, even as the drawn-out battle has led some Republicans to question his strategy.
In addition to voiding development deals, the Florida legislature passed a measure that would have the state Department of Transportation conduct inspections of monorails at Walt Disney World. Stewart said Disney hasn’t had any major safety issues with its monorail system since 2009, when a worker was killed after two vehicles collided. She questioned the timing of the new procedure.
“Obviously it’s about the response,” Stewart said.
Earlier this month, the State Board of Education approved an expansion of the classroom law that started the feud with Disney.