Disney cites recent Ron DeSantis gloating as more evidence of a targeted campaign of government retaliation against Disney's free speech

May 08, 2023 in "The Walt Disney Company"

Posted: Monday May 8, 2023 12:49pm ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

The Walt Disney Company has updated its lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District to include the most recent strikes against the theme park giant.

Disney opens the revised complaint with a quote from DeSantis made on May 5, "[T]his all started, of course, with our parents' rights bill." This statement refers to Disney's claim that it is being unfairly punished for speaking out against the DeSantis bill, known by opponents as "Don't Say Gay."

Disney says, "There is no room for disagreement about what happened here: Disney expressed its opinion on state legislation and was then punished by the State for doing so."

The lawsuit then moves on to mention some of the recent DeSantis and Oversight District moves to nullify existing Reedy Creek agreements through the Florida legislature.

The State's actions over the last two weeks are the latest strikes.

At the Governor's bidding, the State's oversight board has purported to "void" publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts, which had laid the foundation for billions of Disney's investment dollars and thousands of jobs. Days later, the State Legislature enacted and Governor DeSantis signed legislation rendering these contracts immediately void and unenforceable. These government actions were patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional. But the Governor and his allies have made clear they do not care and will not stop. The Governor recently declared that his team would not only "void the development agreement"—just as the State has now done, twice—but also planned "to look at things like taxes on the hotels," "tolls on the roads," "developing some of the property that the district owns" with "more amusement parks," and even putting a "state prison" next to Walt Disney World. "Who knows? I just think the possibilities are endless," he said.

Quoting a recent boast by DeSantis, Disney continues:

"Indeed, just days ago, reaffirming the unequivocal intent of his retribution campaign and trumpeting its perceived success, Governor DeSantis openly celebrated: "Since our skirmish last year, Disney has not been involved in any of those issues. They have not made a peep." This is as clear a case of retaliation as this Court is ever likely to see. At the Governor's behest, the State Legislature first voted to dissolve the long-standing RCID, then ultimately voted to give near-complete control of RCID to the Governor himself. As the Florida representative who introduced the Reedy Creek dissolution bill declared to the Florida House State Affairs Committee: "You kick the hornet's nest, things come up. And I will say this: You got me on one thing, this bill does target one company. It targets The Walt Disney Company."

You can read the complete text of the updated complaint here.

In the lawsuit, Disney asks the Court to:

  • Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it abrogates Disney’s rights in violation of the Contracts Clause;
  • Declare that the Legislative Declaration is an unlawful taking of Disney’s property rights without payment of just compensation in violation of the Takings Clause;
  • Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it was an arbitrary and irrational voiding of the Development Agreement and Restrictive Covenants in violation of the Due Process Clause;
  • Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it was enacted in retaliation for Disney’s speech in violation of the First Amendment;
  • Declare that the Contracts remain in effect and enforceable;
  • Declare that Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B are unlawful and unenforceable because they were enacted in retaliation for Disney’s political speech in violation of the First Amendment;
  • Issue an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Legislative Declaration;
  • Issue an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B;
  • Award Plaintiff its attorney’s fees and costs; and

The next board meeting of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is on May 10 2023.

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Stripes3 days ago

What? The new development agreement is based on the existing 2020 Comprehensive plan. There’s just a blurb in there that the district and Disney will amend the agreement in order to give Disney even more development rights once the new comprehensive plan is effective.

mkt3 days ago

They are not. And the politization of day to day is affecting morale across the other civil servants. I personally know of two ex-RCID/current-CFTOD employees that are taking an early retirement and starting the same job with a different private or public sector enterprise in the area.

Stripes3 days ago

. After the new district took over at the beginning of this mess, Vahle put out a statement that Disney sought to work with the new board on very friendly terms. Disney’s goal was never to continue this fight. Disney promised to do things they were already going to do. It also doesn’t matter because even if Disney doesn’t do what they promised the district can’t prove otherwise until the development agreement expires anyway. The board can’t do much of anything to antagonize Disney anymore. Disney was content to have the new board takeover with guardrails in place at the beginning of this mess. The Florida GOP are once again on Disney’s payroll. There is no risk so long as that continues.

flynnibus3 days ago

Yes I know - which is why I said Disney would be the one to extend the olive branch... the act to initiate and signal a wish to reconcile... Disney knows full well what the union did and the sides they chose... but Disney also knows the union isn't going anywhere... and they know the union has egg on it's face. When your opposition is knocked down and deflated... being the one to help them back up is often a strong way to reconcile and move beyond the past transgressions.

flynnibus3 days ago

Ehh.. the lawsuits were already done. And of course Disney only sued after the state attacked the developer agreement... they can't sue for a contract being violated before it was :) Disney made a pre-emptive strike at the district level with the developer agreement... they fired the first shots.. just not in court. No, Disney still has to deal with the district, and whomever the state decides to sit there.. and all the 'how can they make life worse for disney' points are all still the same. Nothing that happened since RCID was torn down touched anything in the comprehensive plan that was in place and the only portion of the new developer agreement that really matters is it locks in new land management minimums for the property as a whole. Disney basically promised 8 billion dollars and capitulating in return to ensure they get to define the new TBD comprehensive plan like the old days... with their interests at the forefront. Everything else is still as it was with the new District in power... the difference now is right now you have District management that is cooperating with Disney. It's just an example of how far things can swing based on the District's board... they can be completely antagonistic, or they can be completely submissive... all within the same structure. Disney gets to lock up the master plan for the property - but everything else is still at the whim of the Governor because he can swap people to do whatever he pleases. And her job is only as secure as the Governor in office's latest itch. The anti-Disney stance of the last year plus was not because a rogue guy was hired as the district administrator... let's not forget that. Those people were just yes-men who were replaced just as fast as they were put in place when the agenda changed. That risk hasn't changed.

lazyboy97o3 days ago

The firefighters in particular did decide to get involved and oppose Disney.

flynnibus3 days ago

I know they weren't truly employees - I think after 1200 pages we wouldn't be challenging that slang I used. Their benefits here were because Disney gave it to them.. and Disney was hands on in the arrangement.. as well as hands on with the District's management. They were not true employees - but they were in effect, serving at the behest of Disney and Disney calling the shots in this matter. Now that we are past the obvious... Yes, the tax liability has to be addressed since the cat is out of the bag so to speak... but Disney can just gross people up to cover the expense too. It's just a matter of what they want to pay for... and we've already heard how big of a deal it was to those who were getting the benefit. All of this is moving around the elephant in the room.. which is you have hundreds of rank and file employees who weren't part of this anti-disney campaign... but got dragged along with it... and now that their two-faced leaders have done the 180 to tow the new business mandate... I wonder if they will address the employees who lost through this.

Stripes3 days ago

Bear in mind, Disney only sued once the district and the state came after the development agreement. Now that a development agreement is back in place (one that is very favorable to Disney) there’s no need to continue the lawsuits as Disney sees it. Bad PR in this age of incredible polarization with little benefit to the business. Disney can once again build whatever they want without government interference. The new administrator has a great relationship with Disney and worked with DeSantis in the past to carve out exceptions in legislation so that new laws wouldn’t apply to Disney. She has basically done their bidding for years.

Stripes3 days ago

They were never Disney employees. Disney may allow the district employees to purchase the old passes again with their stipend. But unless the district changes how they calculate the stipend amount, it will never be the same perk.

flynnibus3 days ago

Well, according to the district MANAGEMENT it was - who are no longer there. And the new management has already showed they are willing to to deals that contradict prior discord and agendas and the two parties are collaborating behind closed doors. (which ironically - that's the biggest thing the GOP HASN'T fixed about the prior district... because now they are part of the gang). Which is why I poised the question... will Disney turn back to its former employees and try to fight to make it happen?

Stripes3 days ago

According to the district it was an inappropriate perk to begin with. So I don’t think the firefighters will be getting their Disney perks back. They’re SOL.

flynnibus3 days ago

I wonder if Disney will somehow extend an olive branch to the Firefighters and get them their perks back... or if the district will quietly pivot back on the topic for everyone.

flynnibus3 days ago

This a place for objective reasoning. If you have lines to tow... you're gonna get called out for the non-sense it is.

flynnibus3 days ago

Maybe - but you still haven't listed anything they gained or are better off from where they started though... nor addressed the other things they have lost. Name one thing that is better now for Disney.