DeSantis ramps up power struggle with Disney World

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) delivers remarks April 14, 2023 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) introduced a legislative proposal Monday aimed at nullifying the Walt Disney Company's recent effort to restrict the state's ability to rein in future development at Disney World.

Why it matters: Disney's restrictive development agreement undercut DeSantis' oft-repeated talking point that he defeated "woke corporatism" in his state. Now, the Republican governor is hitting back.

  • In addition to voiding Disney's agreement, DeSantis said lawmakers are also looking to revoke other privileges the entertainment giant holds in Florida, including its monorail system's exemption from state inspections.
  • DeSantis then expressed interest in developing the land now in the possession of the governor-appointed board into a park or a state prison.

Catch up quick: The yearslong feud between the Republican governor and Disney began after the company publicly denounced Florida's Parental Rights in Education Bill, dubbed by critics the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

  • DeSantis responded with legislation in April 2022 that revoked the special status of Reedy Creek, a municipal district operated by Disney. In late February, he signed a bill transferring control of the district to the state.
  • Board members discovered earlier this month that the Disney-controlled board pushed through covenant agreements that gave the company authority over most of the future construction in the district.

What they're saying: "We made the decision as a state, as a people through the medium of our elections that we would not have one corporation serving as its own government," DeSantis said at the press conference.

  • "They negotiated with themselves to give themselves the ability to maintain their self-governing status," he added. "Now that's in direct defiance of the will of the people."
  • "Let it be known across this great nation that here in the free state of Florida, it is 'We the People,' not woke corporations," state Rep. Carolina Amesty (R-Windermere) said.

Representatives for Disney declined Axios' request for comment.

What's next: The bill is set to be filed next week.

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