Disney’s filing noted that, in addition to being filed first, the federal lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the new law prohibiting the district from complying with the development contracts. Resolution of the federal action would “materially affect the viability” of claims in the state action, the filing said.
At the center of the fight between Mr. DeSantis and Disney is the 56-year-old special tax district. The district effectively turned the property into its own county, giving Disney unusual control over fire protection, policing, waste management, energy generation, road maintenance, bond issuance and development planning.
Florida has hundreds of similar districts. One covers The Villages, a colossal senior-living community northwest of Orlando. Another covers Daytona International Speedway and the surrounding area.
In February, lawmakers decided to allow the governor to appoint an oversight board for the Disney district in an attempt to curtail the company’s autonomy. When the appointees reported for duty, however, they discovered that the previous, Disney-controlled board had approved development contracts that limit the new board’s power for decades to come.
Disney paid and collected a total of $1.2 billion in state and local taxes in 2022, according to company disclosures. Earlier this year, Disney said it had earmarked $17 billion for expansion spending at the resort over the next decade, growth that would create an additional 13,000 jobs at the company. Last week, Disney said it was “evaluating where it makes the most sense to direct future investments” for theme park construction, a clear reference to the standoff in Florida.