LAKE MARY, Fla. - Three Florida residents have filed the first lawsuit challenging the state's recently passed legislation dissolving The Walt Disney Co.’s self-governing district.
Plaintiffs Michael and Edward Foronda, of Kissimmee, and Vivian Gorsky, of Orange County, contend that the law violates Florida taxpayers' federal constitutional rights as well as their "clearly delineated rights under Florida Bill of Rights for Taxpayers."
The legislation that quickly passed during last month's special session with limited debate dismantles Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District on June 1 of next year. The special district was created in 1967 and encompasses parts of Orange and Osceola counties.
"Governor DeSantis and certain Republican lawmakers made it very clear that they were signing this new bill in order to punish Disney's special status because many Disney employees had expressed disagreement with the ‘Don’t Say Gay' bill," the lawsuit states. "Even though the Governor and certain Republican lawmakers welcome a fight with Disney on this matter, they appear to not want to follow constitutional guidelines and previous legally enforceable agreements involving over $1 billion in bond issuances."
The plaintiffs allege that the state is violating legal statutory and contractual obligations in the 1967 agreement, which forbids it from dissolving the district until Reedy Creek's $1 billion bond obligations are met, "and all other debts discharged."
The Florida governor's office has assured the state that Disney will not be passing tax burdens onto citizens.
"As Governor DeSantis has said, Disney will pay its fair share of taxes, and abolishing the special district will not cause tax increases for the residents of any area of Florida," DeSantis's spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said in a statement on social media last week.
She continued, "If it's true that the repeal of the special district would hand Disney a tax break, and the local taxpayers would be on the hook for this bail-out to benefit Disney... then why would Disney oppose repealing their special district? Indeed, why wouldn't Disney have lobbied to get rid of the special district long ago?"
The plaintiffs in the case are represented by Miami lawyer and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate William Sanchez. See the full lawsuit below: