Florida’s Little-Known Law Gives Disney Total Autonomy


Roy O. Disney and Mickey Mouse at the Oct. 25, 1971, Dedication Ceremony for Walt Disney World Resort on Main Street, USA, in Magic Kingdom park in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (Picture Disney)

The ongoing dispute between Walt Disney World and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis intensifies. On Tuesday, the governor called on the state legislature to consider repealing a law allowing Disney to run private government over its properties in the state, a long-established rule known as the Reedy Creek Improvement Act.

This conflict between DeSantis and Disney started after the company criticized the passage and signing of the Parents’ Rights in Education Act, which some are calling the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”.

Any changes to the laws governing Disney theme parks could be a radical departure from the status quo. The Reedy Creek Improvement Act dates back to when Walt Disney was debating where to build a theme park to follow its success in California.

What is the Reedy Creek Improvement Act?

the Reedy Creek Improvement Act was signed into law in May 1967 by Governor Claude Kirk in response to lobbying efforts by Walt Disney and his staff.

Building proposed by Disney a recreation-oriented development on 25,000 acres of property in a remote area of ​​Orange and Osceola counties in central Florida that includes 38.5 square miles of largely uninhabited pasture and swampland, FOX Business reported.


The first phase of Walt Disney World under construction seen in November 1969. (Photo by Alan Band/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Orange and Osceola counties lacked the services or resources to initiate the project, and the state legislature worked with Disney to establish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special tax district. which allows the company to act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government.

“It’s about Disney having a lot of control, not having to ask Orange County or Orlando for permission to do a lot of things. Instead, they can decide what they want to do. “, explained Aubrey Jewett, professor of political science at the University of Central Florida.


Cinderella’s Castle under construction at Magic Kingdom park in 1971 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (Disney photo)

According to FOX Business, the the district now covers all four Disney theme parks in Floridatwo water parks and a sports complex, 175 miles of roadways, 67 miles of waterways, and the towns of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista.

The area also has an environmental science laboratory, power generation and distribution facility, natural gas distribution system, water collection and treatment facilities. and wastewater, a collection and transfer system for solid and recyclable waste and more than 40,000 hotel rooms and hundreds of restaurants. and retail stores.


EPCOT under construction in 1982 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (Disney photo)

Under the law, the Reedy Creek Improvement District can levy taxes, write building codes, develop and maintain its own infrastructure, and build anything it wants, including an airport or a nuclear power plant.

FOX Business reported that landowners in the area, primarily Disney World, are responsible for paying the cost of providing typical municipal services such as power, water, roads and fire protection, alleviating the burden on the taxpayers of Orange and Osceola County.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District receives money from taxes and fees imposed within its boundaries. For 2022, the area has a operational budget more than $169 million, according to FOX Business.


Lake Buena Vista Village (now Disney Springs) in 1975 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (Disney photo)

Services offered by the Reedy Creek Improvement District

The Reedy Creek Improvement District has constructed and maintained 134 miles of roads and 67 miles of waterways.

According to FOX Business, the area has 2,000 vendors, suppliers and contractors providing utilities to more than 200,000 daily visitors. The neighborhood also has a fire department and emergency medical services.

The area also manages 60,000 tons of waste, recycles 30 tons of aluminum, paper, steel cans, cardboard and plastic containers each year, and tests 22,800 water samples from 1,500 locations to meet quality standards set by federal and state governments.

The district also has the authority to manage drainage from Florida’s notorious rainstorms and then manage the mosquitoes and other pests that come with them.


Walt Disney characters, circa 1972, seen in one of the many ‘utilidors’ that are hidden under and in theme parks, preserving the magic for guests. (Photo by Jonathan Blair/Corbis via Getty Images)

Florida governor pushes to repeal Ready Creek Improvement Act

On Tuesday, as Florida lawmakers returned to the Capitol for a special legislative session on redistricting Congress, DeSantis issued a proclamation that allows the Republican-controlled state house to accept bills eliminating the autonomous district from Disney.

“I’m announcing today that we’re expanding the appeal of what they’re going to be considering this week. And so, yes, they’ll be looking at the map of Congress, but they’ll also be looking at terminating any special districts that have been enacted into law. in Florida before 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” DeSantis said at a news conference, referring to the company’s managing district without mentioning Disney by name.

Earlier this month, DeSantis threatened to dissolve the improvement district of Reedy Creek.

After Disney released a statement on March 28, condemning the bill, some lawmakers suggested repealing the Improvement Act.

State House Rep. Spencer Roach, a Fort Meyers-area Republican, tweeted a message about repealing the law, to which DeSantis responded to the post with a “thumbs up.”

According to FOX 35 Orlando, DeSantis previously said Disney executives were trying to inject their “Californian values” in the more subdued Sunshine State.

the law prohibits educators in Florida teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade with a provision that allows parents to sue if they allege schools or instructors have been in violation.

Disney World, one of Florida’s largest employers, announced he would suspend political donations in the state over the controversial bill, which is expected to go into effect July 1.

the Bill was signed into law on March 28 and Disney has previously said it would support the organizations’ efforts to have the law repealed by the legislature or blocked in court, FOX Business reported. The statement came after criticism from Disney employees and fans of entertainment company and CEO Bob Chapek’s initial silence on the bill.

What would a repeal of the Reedy Creek Act mean for Disney World?

A repeal of the Reedy Creek Act would require Disney to submit to building inspections and planning and zoning controls by Osceola and Orange counties. According to FOX Business and the Orlando Sentry, disney world would have to pay fees and taxes that they are not currently paying. This includes fees to offset the cost of utilities or taxes other landlords pay to fund law enforcement.

According to FOX Business, a possible repeal of the law could impact the entertainment company’s plans to move about 2,000 employees of its Parks, Experiences and Products division from California to a new campus under construction in Lake Nona in Florida. .

FOX 35 Orlando, FOX Business and Associated Press contributed to this story. This story was reported from Washington, DC


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