Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida Legislature to consider new Disney bill to ensure state control

'Disney's corporate kingdom is over,' governor says
Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a news conference in Lake Buena Vista on April 17, 2023.
Posted at 12:46 PM, Apr 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-17 17:33:48-04

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday afternoon that the state Legislature is working on a new bill regarding Walt Disney World and the controversy surrounding its management.

He said it will nullify the agreement the previous Reedy Creek board made with the company, which ceded much of its power to Disney.

In February, DeSantis signed a bill that gave him control of Disney World's self-governing district, punishing the company over its opposition to the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law.

"We have a government of laws ... not men," DeSantis said, "and that includes the law being superior to big corporations, even corporations as big and powerful as Walt Disney Company. They are not superior to the laws that are enacted by the people of the state of Florida."

DeSantis made the announcement during a Monday news conference at the Reedy Creek Administration Building in Lake Buena Vista.

"(Disney) thought they could create some type of development agreement that would essentially render everything we did null and void and put them in control in perpetuity," DeSantis said. "That's not going to work."

Watch: Gov. Ron DeSantis holds news conference in Central Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis says new Disney bill coming from Florida Legislature

The governor said the agreements that Disney has made contain a "plethora of legal infirmities" that render them void.

"Disney's corporate kingdom is over — despite their repeated and futile attempts to circumvent the Legislature and the will of the people," DeSantis said. "Their cheerleaders in the media thought that Disney 'outsmarted' the state, but the new control board uncovered their sloppy scheme, and the agreements will be nullified by new legislation that I intend to execute. Disney will operate on a level playing field with every other business in Florida. I look forward to the additional actions that the state control board will implement in the upcoming days."

The governor said the new legislative bill will ensure the state can oversee the safety of rides, including the monorail, located on Disney property.

RELATED: Renewed battle between DeSantis, Disney

People visit Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on April 18, 2022.
People visit Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on April 18, 2022.

DeSantis said his self-appointed board will also examine the worth of Disney's land, highlighting that he wasn't satisfied with the entertainment company appraising the property itself.

"It's all about making sure that the vision is made into a reality where this company is under the law, following the law, paying taxes and honoring the debts and not governing itself," DeSantis said.

The governor also suggested the new board should sell the district's utility in order to pay down the district's $1 billion debts.

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, DeSantis suggested Monday that the new board or lawmakers could take other actions with Disney's 27,000 acres in central Florida, such as building a state park, a competing theme park or a prison.

"I think the possibilities are endless," DeSantis said.

DeSantis was joined by Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson for the announcement.

"The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stands ready to work with Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature on ideas to increase public safety. Nobody wants more bureaucracy and mindless red tape from government, but we should always consider appropriate safety measures consistent with actual risk," Simpson said. "The Legislature will close a loophole, resulting in a better experience for visitors and residents in the Sunshine State who enjoy our many theme parks."