Losing Pixie Dust: Gov. DeSantis Rids Disney of its Self-Government 

Gabriella Alvarez, Copy Editor

On Feb. 27, Gov. Ron DeSantis officially signed a law stripping The Walt Disney Company of its self-governing district.

The appointed five board members will supervise municipal services, such as fire protection, in Disney World’s territory. The members appointed and approved by the Florida Senate are Martin Garcia, Bridget Ziegler, Brian Aungst Jr., Michael Sasso and Ron Peri. Along with this, board members will possess the authority to raise income in order to fund services to pay off the company’s debt. 

Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney’s self-governing area, was essential to Disney’s development, as the investments permitted necessities such as roads, water and police in the district. This allowed Disney to function similarly to a county government, although they received the ability to tax themselves. As a result of this removal of power, the district has been renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Despite this limitation of power, Disney has stated that it will not resist government action.

These changes ensure that Disney pays their respective taxes; yet, within this takeover, the bill states that the county “shall also assume all indebtedness of the preexisting special district.” This predicts that taxes would rise for county property owners by approximately 20%, which would still not make up for the amount of money lost from the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Speculation regarding these changes arose after a feud between the company and DeSantis. Although Walt Disney Company donated to the governor’s campaign in 2020, their relationship went downhill during the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney implemented strict regulations requiring guests to show proof of vaccination upon entrance to the parks, which contrasts with DeSantis’ conservative views regarding reopening policies during the pandemic. 

Tension reached its peak when Disney CEO Bob Chapek demonstrated his support for the repeal of the Parental Rights in Education Act – commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Following this, DeSantis spoke out, claiming that the company had “crossed the line” and altered the situation into a fundraising angle. 

“Disney should be allowed to voice their opinions since parents with young children are able to block out what their kids see, and it’s not like Disney is putting their opinions within the parks,” Miami Palmetto Senior High freshman and Disney fan Madison Berlowe said. 

These events presumably led to the first indication of Disney’s removal from their special district, and now, the formal signing of the bill. Despite opposing views on this decision, DeSantis’ plans are being seen through, and many fear that some of Disney’s magic will be ripped away.