ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — On Tuesday, Disney asked an Orange County judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed against it by the newly created Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
The motion is the latest in the ongoing dispute between the company and Gov. Ron DeSantis, with Disney writing in its motion, “just over a year ago, Disney expressed a political view that Governor DeSantis did not like. In response, the Governor unleashed a campaign of retaliation, weaponizing the power of government to punish Disney for its protected speech.”
In its filing, Disney argues two things: that the newly passed SB 1604 renders the state lawsuit moot and that its federal lawsuit will settle similar legal questions. Additionally, because the state lawsuit was filed after the federal lawsuit, Disney maintains that “Florida law recognizes a robust ‘principle of priority,’ under which state proceedings should be stayed pending an earlier-filed federal court proceeding.”
Disney first drew the ire of the Governor and state legislators when it expressed its concerns with the state’s Parental Rights in Education Bill, which some had dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” due to the legislation’s prohibition on discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3. The law has subsequently been expanded to K-12.
Read the lawsuit below:
In response to Disney’s criticism, the state held a special session to eliminate the half-century-old Reedy Creek Improvement District. However, the district held almost $1 billion in outstanding bonds which, if the district was eliminated, would fall on taxpayers to cover.
In a second special session, lawmakers crafted a new district to take the place of Reddy Creek, replacing the elected board with one appointed by the governor.
However, before the new board could hold its first meeting, the old board signed a long-term deal with Disney, essentially rendering the new hand-picked board powerless.
Disney then filed a federal lawsuit accusing the state of “a targeted campaign of government retaliation,” accusing the state of violating its First Amendment rights as well as violating the law regarding contracts and its property rights.
Weeks later, the DeSantis board filed a lawsuit against Disney in state court to invalidate the contracts signed by Reedy Creek and Disney. Following that lawsuit, the Florida Legislature passed SB 1604 in an attempt to render the contracts between Disney and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District void.
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