Disney Has A New Florida Governor-Appointed Board, But The Board Can’t Do Much, Here’s Why
Due to an agreement between Disney and the outgoing board, which gives the company complete developmental power over the resort’s 27,000 acres, the current supervisors of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District can’t make any major decisions without getting approval from the company.
In February, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed a board to oversee Walt Disney World. He also signed a bill that stripped the company of control over its special governing District in favor of an agency to handle zoning, infrastructure, and utilities at the famous theme park. However, his five-member team says they have no absolute authority.
Their predicament is primarily due to an agreement between Disney and the outgoing board, which gave the company complete developmental power over the resort’s 27,000 acres. As a result, the current supervisors of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District can’t make any major decisions without getting approval from the company.
According to CNN Politics, the board is now considering legal action. “This essentially makes Disney the government,” board member Ron Peri said via the publication. “This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintaining the roads and basic infrastructure.”
Earlier this week, the oversight board retaliated by hiring several legal firms to audit and investigate corporate behavior within Disney. A spokesperson for DeSantis, Taryn Fenske, said the Governor’s office is aware of the entertainment giant’s efforts to “execute contracts” just before ratifying the law that transfers authority to the new board.
“An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law,” Fenske said via CNN Politics. The government-approved oversight committee was appointed after Disney publicly opposed the controversial Don’t Say Gay legislation that bans education about sexual orientation and gender identity till the third grade.
The newly minted oversight committee replaced a Disney-controlled board appointed, which has been operating as the Reedy Creek Improvement District for the past 55 years, NPR reports. Responding to the threat of legal action, Disney says every agreement signed between the company and the District is lawful and appropriate.
In a statement to NPR, Disney said the agreement was “discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law.” Documents for the February 8 meeting back up the statement as the events were recorded in the Orlando Sentinel as required by local law. New board members have not commented on the notice.
However, the new board’s acting counsel argues that Disney has too much control. According to the legal team, the agreement gave the House of Mouse development rights throughout the entire District. That means the District can only borrow and spend money on projects that benefit the company. It also gives Disney veto authority over every public project in the area.
But it might be a while before the new board has any authority over Disney World. One of the agreements signed by the old committee, which restricts new members from using any of its characters, is valid for 21 years after the last descendant of the United Kingdom’s King Charles III dies.
Meanwhile, Disney World service employees recently voted on accepting a union contract to increase the minimum wage to $18 per hour by the end of 2023. According to NPR, the deal covers approximately 45,000 workers at the company’s theme park resort. It also includes costumed performers who work as popular characters like Mickey Mouse.
Bus drivers, lifeguards, culinary staff, theatrical workers, and hotel housekeepers are also part of the Disney union offer. If they accept the offer, employees could see their hourly wages increase from $5.50 to $8.60 per hour by the end of the five-year contract. However, the agreement still needs to be approved by union leaders.