Feb 28, 2023

DeSantis Takes Control Of Disney World’s Special District Transcript

DeSantis Takes Control Of Disney World’s Special District Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsDisneyDeSantis Takes Control Of Disney World’s Special District Transcript

Gov. Ron DeSantis signs legislation Monday that overhauls the special district that oversees Walt Disney World by giving the governor power to appoint its board. Read the transcript here.

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Governor Ron DeSantis (00:00):

Good morning. Good morning. Thank you. Thanks so much. Thank you. Thank you. It’s so great to be here. Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end. There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day. I want to thank Jon Shirley, president of the Reedy Creek Firefighters Association, they’re going to need a new name soon, for being here with us. And I want to thank all the first responders who’ve been working in this district. One of the things that we think we can do now with removing self-governing status from Disney is actually do better recognition of your service. Mandy Schaffer’s here, a mother, an Osceola County resident, and Nick Caturano, founder of goofyvaccine.com and a Disney employee. We’re also joined by members of the fire rescue department here, as well as I think we have Representative Amesty, where’s she at? There she is over there. Welcome. Thanks for coming.

So as all of you know, we made the decision last year to go in a different direction with respect to how Disney has governed. And since the 1960s, they’ve enjoyed privileges unlike any company or individual in the state of Florida has ever enjoyed. They of course controlled their own government right here in Central Florida. They had exemptions from laws that everybody else had to follow, and they were able to get huge amounts of benefits without paying their fair share of taxes and even racked up 700 million dollars worth of municipal debt. So we had a little bit of a tussle last year over school legislation, and Disney came out against something that was really just about protecting young kids and making sure that students are able to go to school learning to read, write, add and subtract, and not having a teacher tell them that they can change their gender.

And I think most parents agree with that, but that was only a mild annoyance. I think that what we came to realize after that dust settled on that was you clearly had a movement within the corporation itself, of course, Burbank, California based elements of it that said it’s their job or it’s their goal to inject a lot of this sexuality into the programming for young kids. And I’m a dad, six, four and two, and my wife and I, and I know parents throughout Florida, we want our kids to be kids. We want them to be able to enjoy entertainment, school without having an agenda imposed upon them. And so if you’re going that way as a corporation, those are not the values that we want to promote in the state of Florida. We want to promote the safety of our students and the rights of our parents.

So we had this situation here that was basically indefensible from a policy perspective. How do you give one theme park its own government, and then treat all the other theme parks differently? And so we believe that that was not good policy. We believe being joined at the hip with this one California based company was not something that was justifiable or sustainable, and so we say we’re going to do something about it. And so now we’re basically, Disney’s going to be treated like SeaWorld is treated or any of these others, and that’s really the fair thing to do.

So I’ll be signing the bill momentarily and that will officially end the self-governing status here in central Florida for Disney. My signature will also end Disney’s exemption from the Florida Building Code and Florida Fire Prevention Code, it will end Disney’s exemption from state regulatory reviews and approval. It will end Disney’s secrecy by finally ensuring transparency about what goes on in this area. It will ensure that Disney pays its fair share of taxes. It will prevent local governments dominated by leftist politicians from using this situation to raise local taxes.

If you remember when we first said that we were going to go in a different direction and change the status quo, local politicians, particularly in Orange County were saying that that would mean that the debt of Disney would get dumped on their taxpayers, they would have to do services and it would cause major property tax increases for people in Central Florida. Now, I rejected that. A lot of media reported that that would happen, and I said that will not happen. And so even though, and I’ll announce here who’s going to be running Disney on behalf of the state, even though I would like eventually the local governments should just take this, I was not going to put taxpayers at risk and I did not trust them to be able to handle this at this point. So it’s under state control, not local control. They may be able to negotiate something in the future, but right now there will be no additional tax burden on any Floridian, in Central Florida or otherwise.

And in fact, for the whole decades that this has been in effect, you have infrastructure feeding into the theme parks that were paid for by all the citizens of Central Florida. And Disney really got a free ride on that, now they can be taxed for that. So if anything, it’s going to reduce the tax burden of people in Central Florida. It also imposes my signature, and this bill will also impose Florida law on this area, just like it’s imposed on Universal Studios and SeaWorld and all these other places. And this bill and the structure that we’ve created in this bill will ensure that the municipal debt that’s been racked up will be paid by Disney, not by Florida taxpayers. And so this is what accountability looks like. This is what standing up for Florida taxpayers and the rule of law looks like. And I’m really happy that the legislature was able to do this.

Last year when we did the initial people were saying, “The debts,” all this other stuff, we said, “We’re going to take care of it, don’t worry. We’re going to take care of it. We got time to think about the best way to do it and I’m confident that this is a way that is going to vindicate the best interest of the state of Florida.” So Disney loses self-governing status, the state of Florida is the new sheriff in town, but I got a lot on my plate. I can’t be running this from the governor’s office. So we’ve created a state control board that is going to be responsible for governing this area. And I’m pleased to announce that I am going to later today formally appoint the following to the control board. So Martin Garcia from Tampa, who I’m appointing as chair of the board, Bridget Ziegler, a member of the Sarasota County School Board, Brian Aungst from Pinellas County, Mike Sasso, a lawyer here in Central Florida and businessman Ron Peri.

They’ve got a lot of work to do. They know that our vision is okay, yes, Disney no longer has its own government, but you got to ensure that all these laws are applied, you got to ensure the debt is paid and you’ve got to ensure the fair share of taxes are paid. And so they’re going to be getting to work very soon. There’s a board meeting scheduled a week from Wednesday, and so they will be in charge during that board meeting. So buckle up. There’s a lot to get done. And one of the things that I’ve asked them to do when they convene a week from Wednesday is to look at the compensation for the first responders and give them more compensation for doing a good job. And so I hope we will be able to get that done.

So we appreciate the legislature engaging in this. I think that if you looked at the priorities that I had with respect to this, with not letting them govern themselves, make them live under same laws, them being solely responsible for the debts and for taxes, this does that. And I think it does it in a way, not only with no harm to taxpayers throughout Central Florida or other parts of Florida, but possibly lowering the burden because I think you’re going to get more help on infrastructure now, given all the infrastructure that’s benefited this area. So I’m going to sign it in a minute, but first we have some folks that we’re going to hear from. So John from the fire rescue, you want to come up and… So I’m going to put my John Hancock on this piece of legislation, that’ll make it official. And so just look at your watch and you’ll know at what time the corporate kingdom finally came to an end.

Speaker X (10:40):

[inaudible 00:10:41].

Governor Ron DeSantis (10:41):

All right, today is the 27th.

Speaker X (10:51):


Governor Ron DeSantis (10:52):

27th, yeah. I have a book coming out on the 28th, of course I should know what date it is.

Speaker X (10:56):

[inaudible 00:10:59].

Governor Ron DeSantis (10:56):

All right. Well… Okay, it is in the books right here.

Speaker 3 (10:56):

[inaudible 00:11:51] Ron.

Speaker X (10:56):

[inaudible 00:12:02].

Governor Ron DeSantis (10:56):

You got it?

Speaker 4 (12:07):

Okay, go ahead.

Speaker 5 (12:08):

Governor Ron DeSantis, the crew here at Station Four had a small token of our appreciation for what you’ve done for us, and we just wanted to take a quick moment to present this to you.

Governor Ron DeSantis (12:21):

What do we got?

Speaker 5 (12:22):

We have a-

Governor Ron DeSantis (12:22):

Oh, man. Oh, man, look at this. [inaudible 00:12:34].

Speaker 5 (12:37):

This ax has been a part of the Reedy Creek Fire Department’s special operations team for a very, very long time. And that stand was custom-made by Mr. Whitley here, just for you, sir.

Governor Ron DeSantis (12:47):

Great, thank you.

Mr. Whitley (12:57):

[inaudible 00:12:58].

Speaker 5 (12:57):

Thank you so much.

Governor Ron DeSantis (12:57):

[inaudible 00:12:58]. All right…

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