By Natalie Mojica

On April 20th, the Florida legislature passed a bill that aims to dissolve the special district that allows the Walt Disney Company to be self-governing within the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties. The bill was passed through the state Senate with a vote of 23-16 and then went through the state House of Representatives with a vote of 70-38.  

Spearheaded by state Senator Jennifer Bradley (R), the bill seeks to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Established in 1967, it was created so that Disney could develop Walt Disney World without additional costs to Florida taxpayers. As a result, Disney was able to build theme parks and hotels without much government oversight, ultimately becoming the biggest employer in Florida.  

The bill is largely supported by Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been in a public feud with Walt Disney over their disapproval of Florida’s HB 1557 law. The law, referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits early teaching on sexual orientation or gender expression.

“The Disney corporation is being attacked for expressing support for its many LGBTQ employees and customers… are we really making this enormous decision based on spite?” State Senator Tina Polsky (D) said.

Disney’s competitors Universal, SeaWorld, and Legoland don’t operate in special districts, so the bill would even the playing field for amusement parks in the state. Although, its position as a special district also made Disney responsible for paying for the cost of power, water, roads, and fire protection—saving the taxpaying residents of Orange and Osceola from footing the maintenance bills.  

“Nobody actually thinks this is going to happen. The cost to the state would be astronomical, potentially billions of dollars,” State Senator Jeff Brandes (R) said. Brandes was also the only Republican that voted against the bill.  

If Governor signs this bill into law, Reedy Creek and five other special districts will be dissolved on June 1st, 2023. Dissolving Reedy Creek would mean that taxpayers would absorb the tax revenue Disney pays and its billion-dollar debt, leading to higher taxes.