A group of Florida residents have sued Governor Ron DeSantis and other officials over the repeal of a special tax district that has allowed Walt Disney World to self-govern its operations since it was created 55 years ago.
DeSantis signed a law repealing the Reedy Creek Improvement District after Disney announced its opposition to the state’s new “parental rights in education” bill, which is also known as the “don’t say gay’ bill by its critics.
In the lawsuit, the residents, Michael Foronda, Edward Foronda and Vivian Gorsky contend that the repeal of the district violates their federal constitutional rights as taxpayers as well as state rights. They cite reports that repealing the district will leave taxpayers responsible for the district’s debt, estimated by some experts as much as $1 billion.
But they also contend that taxpayers will be left with footing the bill for regulatory burdens in overseeing the district, as well as services like a fire department.
“It is without question that Defendant Governor DeSantis intended to punish Disney for a 1st Amendment protected ground of free speech,” the lawsuit states, via The Hollywood Reporter. “Defendant’s violation of Disney’s 1st Amendment rights directly resulted in a violation of Plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights to due process of law.”
DeSantis stated that Disney aimed to “inject sexuality into the programming that is provided to our youngest kids” and that he personally is “not comfortable having that type of agenda get special treatment” in Florida.
“We have everything thought out,” DeSantis said. “Don’t let anyone tell you that Disney is going to get a tax cut out of this. They are going to pay more taxes as a result of this.”
The Walt Disney World Florida property has been covered by the Reedy Creek Improvement District since 1967, giving it self-governance over land use and environmental issues and allowing it to float tax-free municipal bonds.
“Stripping Disney of this special district designation will move these major regulatory burdens unto the county, thereby increasing the Plaintiff’s taxes, and will cause significant injury to plaintiffs,” the complaint stated.
The lawsuit also targets Florida lawmakers “threatening to take thousands of jobs” from the state in retaliation for protected speech and argues Florida is violating Disney’s constitutional rights.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: LA TIMES