If you haven’t been aware or have been living under a rock for the last year, there had been a huge conflict brewing in Florida between the state government (primarily Republicans in the legislature and Republican Governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis) and Disney, the entertainment giant and one of the largest employers of the state and draws for the local economy.
While Republicans are the self-proclaimed party of pro-business and free speech, they got a little upset when Disney responded unfavorably towards a new law Republicans passed that was dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law due to its restrictions on speech in the classroom regarding such topics that deal with LGBTQ matters. Republicans responded by launching a special session of the legislature and rushing a bill to law that stripped Disney (and only Disney) of their special governing status. Other like districts that majority share with the state government did not see their status revoked, like the massive retirement community The Villages.
Upon their hastily put together attack on Disney it was discovered that Republicans did not consider the consequences of their actions punishing Disney and their law would instead saddle Central Florida residents with a huge tax burden. So republicans went back to work and made a new plan, fleshing out their first law renaming the district and with the governor making political appointments to the oversight board under the guise of managing a runaway company.
But Republicans missed something.
While they were quickly drafting legislation to punish the entertainment industry giant they were unaware that Disney made a deal with the previous governing body of Reedy Creek that essentially gave Disney discretion over how the properties can operate within the area.
They essentially neutered the new governing board. The State was upset because as their board put it, they can only really be responsible for infrastructure maintenance. Anything else would require Disney’s approval.
Essentially Republicans are mad because Disney made themselves the homeowners’ association (HOA) of Reedy Creek and now Republicans are upset that a private entity can become a quasi government and operate without interference from the state. Property owners in Florida are well to aware of how HOAs operate. Now Republicans are facing reality and it sounds like there is nothing they can do - their official position is that the contract made under Florida law is null and void because… because they say it is.
The governing board and state Republicans have no legal response to the move because they had been out maneuvered. The lawyers contracted by the board seem to admit that to fight this would require much more legal representation because they are outgunned and from all appearances it seems Disney used existing law to make a legal (if not frustratingly unfair) deal with the government of that time and Republicans in their rush and diminished debate failed to realize all possible outcomes.