DeSantis Appointees Seek to ‘Void’ Disney World Agreement


After Disney criticized a contentious state education law and halted political donations in Florida, Mr. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature restricted Disney’s autonomy by appointing a handpicked oversight board for the district. Previously, Disney selected the board members. The education law, called Parental Rights in Education, prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity for students through the third grade. Opponents labeled the legislation “Don’t Say Gay.” On Wednesday, the DeSantis administration expanded the ban through grade 12.

The tax district has been a crucial tool for Disney in developing the resort, which includes four theme parks, two water parks and 18 Disney-owned hotels. Disney’s expansion plan, which lies at the center of the contested development agreement, involves the possible construction of 14,000 additional hotel rooms, a fifth major theme park and three small parks. The company has said that it has earmarked more than $17 billion in spending to fuel growth at the resort over the next decade, expansion that would create an estimated 13,000 jobs at the company.

In July, the DeSantis administration reviewed and approved Disney’s growth plan.

Mr. DeSantis, a leading Republican presidential contender although he has not officially declared a bid, has drawn criticism this week from potential presidential rivals for his war with Disney. “This is all so unnecessary, a political STUNT,” former President Donald J. Trump wrote on Tuesday on Truth Social, his social media site.

But the governor has shown no sign of backing down, framing his efforts as protecting “the will of the people” and ending “an unfair special advantage.” At a news conference on Monday, Mr. DeSantis suggested a variety of potential punitive actions against Disney, including reappraising the value of the resort for property tax levies and developing adjacent land, perhaps as the location for a new state prison.

“Nobody in Tallahassee was willing to shine a light on this arrangement,” Martin Garcia, the new chairman of the tax district board, said during the session, referring to Disney’s self-governing capabilities. “Then Gov. Ron DeSantis, courageously — and I repeat, courageously — called it out for betraying not only fair-market competition, but also the citizens of Florida.”

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