The Walt Disney Company has instructed its lobbyists to escalate its battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his GOP allies who dominate the state legislature as the Mouse House ramps up its efforts to keep the semi-autonomous powers it has enjoyed over its theme parks.
Disney wants lobbyists to use their powers of persuasion in convincing lawmakers in Tallahassee to shoot down proposed legislation that would curb the company’s authority in deciding issues like land use, taxation, and maintenance of infrastructure, CNBC reported Thursday.
Disney lobbyists are paying close attention to a bill introduced in the Florida State Senate that would void an 11th-hour agreement between the Disney-dominated Reedy Creek Improvement District and Disney that essentially gave the Mouse House control over the land on which its theme parks were built.
The agreement was made just before a new oversight board whose members were picked by DeSantis dissolved Reedy Creek Improvement District.
DeSantis, a likely Republican presidential candidate who has frequently attacked “woke Disney,” said the company has long operated with an “unfair advantage” in the state through the district.
He has previously complained about an agreement Disney made with outgoing board members to preserve the company’s option to add a fifth major theme park and more retail space and hotel rooms at the resort.
DeSantis’ new oversight board said on Wednesday it had discovered another “11th hour agreement” that allows Walt Disney Co to set its own utility rates at its Orlando theme parks.
A Disney subsidiary, which provides utility services to the central Florida district that includes the Walt Disney World Resort, negotiated an agreement in February to extend its contract through 2032, Chairman Martin Garcia said at a public meeting.
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.
State Republicans last year began targeting Disney after it publicly clashed with DeSantis over a law that restricts classroom instruction of gender and sexual orientation.
Republicans named the bill the Parental Rights in Education Act, while opponents criticized it as the “Don’t say gay” law.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has called moves to limit Disney’s oversight of its theme parks “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
With Post Wires