New Florida board seeks power over Walt Disney World cities
People gather ahead of the "Festival of Fantasy" parade at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida, U.S. July 30, 2022. Reuters

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the state legislature will file a bill that aims to undo steps the Walt Disney Co took to undermine the authority of a new state-appointed oversight board, intensifying the battle between a likely presidential contender and one of the state's largest employers.

DeSantis told an Orlando radio station on Monday that the bill would "formally nullify" a development agreement Disney struck with outgoing members of the oversight board that ties the hands of DeSantis' appointees.

"To do an end-run around the people of Florida shows how arrogant they are," DeSantis told the host of WFLA's "Good Morning Orlando."

The Florida governor began targeting Disney a year ago, after Disney's then-Chief Executive Bob Chapek spoke out against a bill limiting discussion of sexuality and gender identity in Florida's elementary school classrooms - the Parental Rights in Education Act, referred to by opponents as the "Don't say gay" law.

He and the Florida legislature have been working to eliminate the virtual autonomy the company enjoyed over Walt Disney World for more than century.

DeSantis scheduled a news conference at Lake Buena Vista on Monday and is expected to announce details of the measure.

DeSantis' battle against "woke Disney" has figured in speeches, as he travels around the country ahead of an anticipated 2024 presidential bid.

Florida lawmakers passed a bill in February giving DeSantis effective control over a board that oversees municipal services and development in a special district in central Florida that encompasses Walt Disney World resort.

Current Disney CEO Bob Iger called the move a retaliation, "anti-business" and "anti-Florida."

Before the takeover by DeSantis appointees, Disney pushed through changes to the special tax district agreement that limit the board's action for decades.

An attorney for the newly constituted Central Florida Tourism Oversight District last month described what he called the "shocking" revelation that the agreement had been reached three weeks before DeSantis signed legislation granting the state authority over the district.

"I've never seen anything like this," said attorney Daniel Langley on March 29. "The timing, circumstances and terms of the (development agreement) showed that the intent ... was to circumvent the enabling act of this district and to bind the hands of this board and future boards."

The pact cements a 10-year comprehensive plan, adopted on July 15, 2022, that serves as a blueprint to guide future development. It gives Disney the option to add a fifth major theme park, two minor parks, 1 million square feet of retail space and some 14,000 hotel rooms.

It also ensures that future boards would honor a commitment to $527 million in planned capital improvements to support Walt Disney World's growth over the next decade.

The agreement would remain in force until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, a legal provision used in contracts to extend a right in perpetuity.