TALLAHASSEE — The feud between Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Co. started nearly two years ago when the company required its on-site employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Then, when it criticized the governor over Florida’s legislation about restrictions in public schools about teaching and discussing gender identity and other issues, the governor accelerated the feud.
Here’s the timeline:
Spring 2021: The Legislature passed and the governor signed a bill that would give Disney special treatment to crack down on social media companies after several conservatives said their accounts had been banned. Republican sponsors added a last-minute amendment exempting companies that own theme parks, particularly to allow programs run by Disney+ for example, that collect viewer reviews, to be exempt from the ban. It turns out that the governor’s own staff helped to create the Disney carveout.
Summer 2021: The governor’s war with Disney starts. The company requires all its on-site employees to be fully vaccinated. By late October, the governor announced he would impose fines against Disney and others with vaccine mandates.
March 11, 2022: Disney employees pressure the company to take a stand against the proposed Parental Rights in Education legislation. CEO Bob Chapek sends a message to all employees “especially our LGBTQ+ community,” and says he’s sorry the company didn’t act sooner and announces that Disney is pausing all political contributions in the state.
March 28, 2022: Disney doubles down in a company statement that the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed by opponents as the Don’t Say Gay bill, should be struck down by the courts.
The company’s statement, posted on Twitter the same day that DeSantis signed the bill into law, said the company would support national and state organizations working to achieve those outcomes.
“Florida’s HB 1557 ... should have never passed and should never have been signed into law,” the company’s statement read.
April 19, 2022: DeSantis asks the Legislature to revoke Disney’s special district and self-governing status when it meets in a special session on redistricting.
April 19, 2022: Disney notifies Orange County that it had signed two new agreements with the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
April 21, 2022: The Florida Legislature passes the measure and DeSantis signs it into law, but the idea quickly hits a snag and, to dissolve the district, the state would have to find a way to pay off an estimated $1 billion in the district’s debt.
April 21, 2022: Disney quietly sends a note to its investors that it is confident the Legislature’s attempt to dissolve the special taxing district violates the “pledge” the state made when it enacted the district in 1967, and therefore was not legal.
May 1, 2022: One of the nation’s leading bond rating agencies warns that if Florida doesn’t resolve a conflict over its decision to repeal Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District and its obligation to investors, the move could harm the financial standing of other Florida governments.
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July 22, 2022: The State of Florida approves the Comprehensive Plan upon which the Reedy Creek development agreement is based.
Jan. 25, 2023: Reedy Creek holds a public hearing on a series of agreements that will leave in place local land-use regulations that favor Disney for the next 30 years and a set of restrictive covenants that will limit what the DeSantis-aligned board can do with Disney’s property.
Feb. 6, 2023: Legislature meets in special session and abandons plan to dissolve Disney’s special taxing district and instead releases a new plan to rename the district and let DeSantis choose the people in charge.
Feb. 8, 2023: Reedy Creek board meets for a final time and votes to approve the series of agreements and restrictive covenants.
Feb. 11, 2023: Legislature gives final approval to changes that would shift control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District from the Walt Disney Co. to DeSantis but leave the taxing district intact.
Feb. 27, 2023: DeSantis signs into law the bill to give the governor control over Walt Disney World’s governing body.
March 29, 2023: The newly appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District announces that it has discovered the development agreements and restrictive covenants that will limit its power over Disney’s property.
April 3, 2023: The Walt Disney Co. holds its virtual annual shareholder’s meeting and during a question-and-answer period, CEO Bob Iger says the governor’s “retaliation” against the “biggest taxpayer in the state” is “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
April 3, 2023: DeSantis orders his inspector general to conduct an investigation into the Disney-controlled board agreements.
April 6, 2023: DeSantis gives a speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan and says he is considering imposing new taxes on hotels and tolls on the roads within the Reedy Creek Improvement District area and the state will direct the development of the property the district owns around Disney.
April 17, 2023: DeSantis announces a plan to revoke the development agreements that undercut the authority of the board he appointed and to impose new regulations on Disney operations.
April 19, 2023: Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet and review a new proposal to strengthen its authority over planning, zoning and land development regulations for the special taxing district.
In the next week: Legislation will be drafted in Tallahassee to revoke the development agreements.