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Gov. DeSantis signs law, state takes control of Disney's Reedy Creek District

Gov. Desantis signs law, takes over Disney district
Gov. Desantis signs law, takes over Disney district 00:38

ORLANDO - Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill into law that gives the state control of Walt Disney World's Reedy Creek Improvement District.

During a stop in Lake Buena Vista, the governor signed the measure which renames it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

"How do you give one theme park its own government and then treat all the other theme parks differently? Now, basically, Disney is going to be treated like Sea World is treated, like any of these others. That will officially end the self-governing status here, in Central Florida, for Disney," said DeSantis.

The revamped district would be continued under a new name on June 1 and still have wide-ranging authority to levy property taxes, oversee water and sewer systems, roads, parking, a fire department and other infrastructure and issue bonds to pay for projects. 

At DeSantis' urging, lawmakers last year decided to dissolve Reedy Creek and five other special districts across the state after Disney angered the governor by opposing the controversial "Parental Rights in Education Law," which critics labeled "Don't say gay," which bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and lessons deemed not age-appropriate.

The new law gives DeSantis authority to appoint the district's five-member Board of Supervisors. It also removes parts of the district's authority, such as the power to potentially construct a nuclear power plant, airport, and stadium.

DeSantis announced his appointments to the reconstructed board, including Martin Garcia, a Tampa lawyer and prolific Republican donor whose private investment firm contributed $50,000 to DeSantis' reelection, and Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota County School Board member who was a co-founder of the conservative organization Moms for Liberty and the wife of Christian Ziegler, the new chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Board members appointed by DeSantis are subject to Senate confirmation.  

The new board is scheduled to meet next week, DeSantis said, "so buckle up."

In a statement to CNN after the bill passed the state legislature earlier this month, Jeff Vahle, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, said the company was "ready to work within this new framework, and we will continue to innovate, inspire and bring joy to the millions of guests who come to Florida to visit Walt Disney World each year."

The state created the Reedy Creek district in 1967 and essentially gave Disney control over issues such as land use, fire protection, and sewer services that are typically handled by local governments.

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