Disney’s lawsuit against DeSantis expanded after Bill overturned land deals

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at the US Police Hall of Fame and Museum in Titusville, May 1, 2023.

Paul Hennessey | SOPA Images | Light flare | Getty Images

disney Monday expanded his federal lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, accusing the Republican leader of doubling down on his “retaliatory campaign” against the company by signing legislation to nullify Disney’s development deals in Orlando.

Disney’s amended lawsuit also noted that Florida’s Republican-led Legislature last week passed legislation targeting Walt Disney World’s monorail system.

“Governor DeSantis and his allies have no apparent intention of moderating their retaliatory campaign anytime soon,” Disney wrote in its additions to the civil lawsuit it filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee in April.

DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the amended complaint.

Disney alleges DeSantis began a retaliatory war against the company in 2022, after he publicly criticized Florida’s controversial bill – dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ by critics – that limits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.

The governor and his allies have targeted Disney’s special tax district, formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has allowed the entertainment giant to efficiently manage operations at its Orlando parks for decades. The drawn-out row spilled into the courts after the district’s new Board of Supervisors, which had been handpicked by DeSantis, voted to void development deals Disney struck shortly before replacing the old council.

Members of the governor’s board claimed the deals were made illegally and undermined their power over the 25,000-acre area. But Disney says the contracts were designed to help lock in its long-term development plans amid growing tension with DeSantis and his allies.

On Friday, the last day of the state’s 2023 legislative session, DeSantis signed a bill that included language effectively targeting Disney development contracts. It prohibits an independent special district “from complying with the terms of any development agreement” entered into within three months prior to a law “changing the mode of selection of members” of the governing body of that special district.

Republican State Senator Blaise Ingoglia added that tongue to Bill days after he warned Disney, “You’re not going to win this fight. This governor will.”

Democratic members of the Legislative Assembly were quick to condemn the battle.

“The governor’s failure to understand basic economics, coupled with his punitive style, has created an inflated and protracted grudge match, which is funded by taxpayers,” Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat, told CNBC. . “As the executive of the state, leading the party that has historically bowed to free market principles and less regulation, this third legislative effort to harm private enterprise is contrary to conservative governance.”

Pizzo lambasted DeSantis for using state revenue to “fight iconic brands.”

“No matter how many times he shouts Florida is free, those are the methods of a socialist bully, not a Republican whiz kid,” he said.

Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart, a staunch critic of DeSantis’ actions against Disney, called the feud between DeSantis and Disney “crazy” and blamed her Republican counterparts.

“Every day it seems like they want to try to make it harder for Disney, but all they do is cost the taxpayers money to hire lawyers to go and defend what they’re doing. “Stewart told CNBC on Friday.


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