Disney Co. vs. Gov. DeSantis: Florida governor threatens Reedy Creek Act after 'Don't Say Gay' bill critiques

When you look at the Disney signs outside of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, you may think of Mickey Mouse and fun times with family for friends at one of the resort's four theme parks, but experts say it more resembles that of a large company that has its own town.

"Back in 1967, when (Walt) Disney was first buying land and getting ready to set up shop here in town, the legislature and governor gave Disney the power of self-government," said University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett.

That paved the way for the "Reedy Creek Improvement Act," which created the special district.

Reedy Creek, which consists of around 25,000 acres of land carved out from Orange and Osceola counties, has its own city council.  Jewett said the district has two municipalities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista.  

"It’s about Disney having a lot of control, not having to ask Orange County or Orlando permission to do a lot of things. Instead, they basically can decide what they want to do," he said.

Now, Gov. Ron DeSantis has threatened to have that district dissolved, especially after The Walt Disney Company criticized the passage and signing of the Parents Rights in Education Law, or the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Gov. DeSantis said Disney's executives were trying to inject their "California values" into the more moderate Sunshine State.

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

"Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," reads the statement from Disney. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts," read a portion of a statement from Disney released on Monday. 

Following that, some lawmakers suggested repealing the Reedy Creek Improvement Act.

State House Rep. Spencer Roach, a Fort Meyers-area Republican, tweeted a post about it, with the governor giving it the "thumbs up."

"The legislature can re-evaluate it as a whole, but my view is we should treat everyone equally. We shouldn’t let one company have their own set of rules, compared to everybody else," DeSantis said.

"My initial reaction was, ‘What the heck?’ I was really shocked and surprised," said Jewitt.

The governor has stated that he thinks Reedy Creek has too much power.

"I can tell you I was shocked to see some of the stuff that’s in there. They could do their own nuclear power plant." DeSantis said.

"It has crossed my mind that maybe the Legislature and the governor back in the 1960s went overboard a little bit," Jewett responded.

However, State Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando-area Democrat, doubts Reedy Creek will be dissolved.

"Disney’s not going to stand by and let that happen without a fight, so you’re looking at maybe a few years worth of lawsuits," she said.

Jewett said there is a small chance the Reedy Creek Improvement District could be repealed. He said around 50 retired and current Disney employees live there. 

No one from Reedy Creek would comment about the possible repeal when reached by FOX 35.

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