Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at the U.S. Police Hall of Fame and Museum in Titusville, May 1, 2023.
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Disney on Monday she expanded hers federal lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who accused the Republican leader of doubling down on his “retaliation campaign” against the company. signing legislation cancel Disney development contracts in Orlando.
Disney’s amended complaint also noted that Florida Republican Legislature passed legislation last week targeting Walt Disney World’s monorail system.
“Governor DeSantis and his allies have no apparent intention to moderate their retaliatory campaign any time soon,” Disney wrote in amendments to the civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee in April.
DeSantis’ office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the amended complaint.
Disney claims DeSantis launched a retaliatory war against the company in 2022 after she publicly criticized Florida’s controversial law — dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics — that restricts discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.
The governor and his allies have targeted Disney’s special taxing district, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has allowed the entertainment giant to effectively run its Orlando parks for decades. The long dispute spilled over into the courts after the county’s new Board of Supervisors, handpicked by DeSantis, voted to void development agreements Disney entered into shortly before they replaced the old board.
Members of the governor’s board claimed the agreements were approved illegally and undermined their power over the 25,000-acre area. But Disney says the contracts were created to help lock in its long-term development plans amid escalating tensions with DeSantis and his allies.
On Friday, the last day of the 2023 state legislative session, DeSantis signed the promissory note this included language effectively targeting Disney’s development contracts. It precludes an independent special district from “observing the terms of any development agreement” that is entered into within three months of the law “regulating the manner of selection of members” of the governing body of that special district.
Republican State Senator Blaise Ingoglia he added that language into the bill days after he warned Disney, “You’re not going to win this fight. This governor is going to win.”
Democratic members of the legislature were quick to condemn the battle.
“The governor’s inability to understand basic economics, coupled with his punitive style, has created a bloated and protracted taxpayer-funded feud,” Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat, told CNBC. “As a state executive led by a party that has historically pandered to the principles of free markets and less regulation, this third legislative effort to harm private society is antithetical to conservative governance.”
Pizzo criticized DeSantis for using state revenue to “fight iconic brands.”
“No matter how many times they scream Florida is Free, those are the methods of a socialist bully, not a Republican freak,” he said.
Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart, a staunch critic of DeSantis’ actions against Disney, called the dispute between DeSantis and Disney “crazy” and blamed her Republican counterparts.
“Every day it seems like there’s another way they want to try to make things harder for Disney, but all they’re doing is costing taxpayers money to hire lawyers to go and defend what they’re doing,” Stewart said in CNBC Friday.