Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new oversight board said it discovered another “11th hour agreement” by Disney to sidestep the Sunshine State’s moves to strip Disney World of some of its unusual powers.
According to Reuters, chairman Martin Garcia said at a public meeting on Wednesday that Disney struck a secret deal that allows Disney to set its own utility rates at its own Orlando-based theme parks.
A Disney subsidiary, which provides utility services to the central Florida district that includes the Walt Disney World, quietly negotiated the deal in February to extend its contract through 2032.
Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Last Friday afternoon I learned for the first time about one of these new 11th hour agreements entered into between Disney and the district. This one relates to our utility services,” Garcia said. “We’ll have to evaluate the legality of that agreement, that essentially enables Disney to set their utility rates.”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” Garcia said.
The news comes amid an ugly battle between DeSantis and the entertainment giant, which was ignited by the governor’s move last year to sign a bill into law that bans the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation for kids in kindergarten through third grade. More recently, DeSantis has pushed to extend that through the 12th grade.
Disney opposed the initial bill, which causes DeSantis to wage a campaign to strip Disney of some of the special tax statuses it has in Florida. He also selected a five-member state-appointed board to subject Disney to more oversight.
But Disney outsmarted DeSantis when the original board quietly struck a new deal for the land Disney World occupies in March, protecting its status for the foreseeable future. According to the board chairman, it inked the utilities deal at the same time.
At the same meeting, Garcia also laid out its blueprint for changes to the district, many of which are likely to be opposed by Disney World. They included zoning changes and hiring an “independent rate consultant” to scrutinize how the district-owned utility company sets its rates, NBC News reported.
Recently, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has called DeSantis’ moves to limit Disney’s oversight of its theme parks “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
He recently said in an interview with Time, that he’d be willing to discuss the situation.
“If the governor of Florida wants to meet with me to discuss all of this, of course, I would be glad to do that,” Iger said. “You know, I’m one that typically has respected our elected officials and the responsibility that they have, and there would be no reason why I wouldn’t do that.”