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DeSantis Notches New Win Against Disney As Judge Tosses Lawsuit

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Republican Party won another battle in their fight against the Walt Disney company.

On Tuesday a federal judge that challenged the law signed by Gov. DeSantis that dissolved Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, Fox News reported.

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In the complaint, three residents of Orange and Osceola counties claimed that S.B. 4-C, the law that eliminates Disney’s ability to operate an independent governmental entity around its Orlando-area theme parks, unconstitutionally threatens residents with higher taxes, abridges free speech rights, and violates a contractual obligation, the Orlando Sentinel reported. William Sanchez, a Miami lawyer and Democratic Senate candidate, filed the lawsuit last week.

U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga, whom former President George W. Bush appointed, cited many reasons to dismiss the suit, including the federal court’s lack of standing over state issues and the tentative nature of the plaintiffs’ claims. S.B. 4-C, which DeSantis signed on April 22, will not go into effect until July 2022.

Michael and Edward Foronda of Kissimmee and Vivian Gorsky of Orange County “do not plausibly allege they have suffered any concrete injury as a result of the alleged violation of Disney’s First Amendment rights, and nothing in the Complaint shows Plaintiffs have a close relationship with Disney,” Altonaga wrote, the Sentinel reported.

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The law that dissolves the special tax district “does not apply to them, they do not allege direct harm as a result of the challenged law, and they do not plausibly allege any credible threat of direct harm in the future,” the judge said.

The complaint supposes that the law “might result in financial harm to Plaintiffs by virtue of a tax increase that has not yet been enacted,” the judge said. “That indirect and highly speculative alleged injury cannot support federal jurisdiction. … Again — it is worth emphasizing — the bill does not apply to Plaintiffs at all.”

But Sanchez is not quitting and pledged to file the complaint again next Monday.

“This is just the beginning of the battle, as we are attempting to achieve justice for Florida taxpayers,” he said.

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While speaking at an event in April, the popular Republican governor called on the state legislature to end special protections for Disney’s Florida operations.

“I’d also like to make another announcement before we get into the subject of today’s program. I think as many of, you know, the Florida legislature is meeting this week to consider the congressional reapportionment plan for Florida for the next 10 years. And that is what they’ve been called upon to do,” DeSantis said.

“I am announcing today that we are expanding the call of what they are going to be considering,” DeSantis continued. “Yes, they will be considering the congressional map but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”

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“What I would say as a matter of the first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power,” DeSantis said.

“I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years,” he added.

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“The Reedy Creek Improvement Act was signed into law in May 1967 by Gov. Claude Kirk in response to lobbying efforts by Disney. The entertainment giant proposed building a recreation-oriented development on 25,000 acres of property in a remote area of Central Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties, which consisted of 38.5 square miles of largely uninhabited pasture and swampland,” Fox News reported.

“Orange and Osceola County did not have the services or resources needed to bring the project to life, so the state legislature worked with Disney to establish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special taxing district that allows the company to act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government,” the report added.

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