Central Florida Tourism Oversight District to meet after state OKs new law to empower the board

The board will enact new policies on May 10.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District to meet after state OKs new law to empower the board

On May 10, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board, which replaced Reedy Creek Improvement District will meet to adopt new policies.

The Wyndham Resort Lake Buenavista, near Disney Springs is hosting the meeting. It will be the first monthly board meeting since April 19, when the board announced its plan to overturn two agreements between Disney and the previous Reedy Creek Improvement District Board. The agreements restructured the development power of the district, and gave it to Disney. This angered Florida Governor Rick Scott. Ron DeSantis, the board's leaders and other members of the state government were not happy with these agreements.

Disney filed a lawsuit claiming that the First Amendment rights of the company were violated. This led to an additional meeting on April 26, which resulted in the agreement voiding. The board reconvened on May 1 for a special meeting in order to announce a lawsuit against Disney.

The following are some of the items on the Agenda:

The board will consider an employment agreement for the current District Administrator John H. Classe Jr. to serve as a special advisor.

Disney, DeSantis, and the district did not have any representatives available to comment.

What we know about the ongoing negotiations between Walt Disney World, the State and the federal government:

What is the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District countersuit against Disney?

The lawsuit filed by the district on May 1 at the Orange County Clerk of Courts discusses the legal basis of the board's April 26 decision to declare two Disney agreements made with the former Reedy Creek district Board null and void.

In its lawsuit, the district makes several claims against Disney. It alleges that the theme park "cobbled" together the two controversial agreements.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the Disney agreements are void, invalid, and/or unenforceable. This would prevent Disney from enforcing these agreements. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District claims that these agreements "reek of a backroom agreement -- drafted by Disney, with the consent of a lawyer who represented Disney and the District and set for hearings without proper notice and rushed through a Disney-controlled Board Disney knew wouldn't dwell on the issue."

What has Florida's legislature done in the 2023 legislative sessions regarding Disney?

Since the recent legal fallout involving Disney and DeSantis, two major pieces of new legislation have been introduced.

Senate Bill 1604 sponsored by Sen. Blaise Igoglia, R-Spring Hill, allows for a new board of directors to retroactively rescind development agreements that were made with the previous board within four month after the start date of the board. The bill allows the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board to "review and vote on whether to seek the re-adoption" of the agreement. DeSantis signed into law the bill on May 5.

House Bill 1305, a new bill by the Infrastructure Strategies Committee and members of the Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee as well as Rep. Shane G. Abbott, R-DeFuniak Springs, imposes regulations, including the inspection of Disney's Monorail Transportation System. The bill's description is specific to Disney: "The Department shall adopt by regulation minimum safety standards for any governmentally or private fixed-guideway transport systems operating in this State which are located in an independent special district which has boundaries within two adjacent counties." Both the state House and Senate approved the bill. DeSantis will now sign it into law.

What is the claim of the lawsuit filed by Disney?

After more than an year of back-and-forth between Disney and the state, this lawsuit has gained a lot of attention.

The suit filed by the theme park giant alleges "a targeted government retaliation campaign -- orchestrated every step of the way by Governor DeSantis to punish Disney for its protected speech -- threatens Disney’s business operations and jeopardizes their economic future in this region."

Taryn Feske, the communications director for DeSantis, gave this prepared statement to OBJ shortly after the lawsuit was filed: "We do not know of any legal rights that a business has to run its own government, or to maintain special privileges that are not enjoyed by other businesses within the state." This lawsuit is another example of how they hope to subvert the will of Florida voters and operate beyond the law.

What was the origin of the dispute between DeSantis & Disney?

The Walt Disney Co., based in Burbank, California, protested against the controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill, also known by its opponents as "Don't Say Gay", which forbids the discussion of sexual orientation in school.

Industry experts claim that DeSantis was prompted by the backlash to pass a bill last year dissolving Disney's Reedy Creek special governing district this year.

Reedy Creek Improvement District, now replaced, was a 39-square mile governing jurisdiction as well as a special taxing district that was created in 1968 to govern Walt Disney World Resort land. It had the same authority and responsibilities of a county.

What is Disney's ownership in Orlando?

Walt Disney World, the largest employer in Orlando, is owned by The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS). It has four theme parks located locally: Magic Kingdom. Epcot. Animal Kingdom.

Walt Disney World is the number one visitor attraction in Orlando. More than 50 millions people have passed through its gates over the past few years, many of them repeat visitors.

Disney owns Blizzard Bay and Typhoon Lagoon as well as themed hotels, golf clubs, a timeshare property, a residential area called Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort and ESPN Wide World of Sports.

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