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Disney sues Florida Gov. DeSantis after repeal of special district

Disney is suing Florida state leaders, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, claiming they illegally retaliated against the company.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Heritage Foundation 50th Anniversary Celebration leadership summit.
Posted at 1:14 PM, Apr 26, 2023

Disney has filed a federal lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after the state ended the company’s special government status. 

In February, DeSantis signed legislation that effectively strips Disney of its control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The district was created in 1967 and given the same governing power as a county government. It was part of an agreement between Disney and the state to develop 38.5 square miles of largely uninhabited pasture and swamp land into one of the world’s largest tourist attractions.

Disney claimed that the law was passed in retaliation for company leaders speaking out against the Parental Rights in Education bill.

The legislation passed in 2022 placed limits on discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. Opponents dubbed the legislation the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Bob Chapek, CEO of Disney at the time, spoke against the Parental Rights in Education bill prompted by protests from workers.

In its federal lawsuit, Disney alleges that the measure “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”

"The Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials," the lawsuit reads.

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Disney specifically says DeSantis and other Florida officials violated the Contracts Clause, the Takings Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the First Amendment. 

Disney is requesting the court to declare the law unenforceable. 

DeSantis has argued that a private company is not accountable to the public, and thus should have the same regulations as other companies. He said the previous arrangement gave Disney “preferential treatment.” But DeSantis has criticized Disney, and said its protest of the legislation "crossed the line."

“Allowing a corporation to control its own government is bad policy, especially when the corporation makes decisions that impact an entire region,” DeSantis previously said. “This legislation ends Disney’s self-governing status, makes Disney live under the same laws as everybody else, and ensures that Disney pays its debts and fair share of taxes.”