Disney Appeals Loss In Lawsuit Against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Over Special Tax District

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Disney is appealing its loss in a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who allegedly violated the entertainment giant’s First Amendment rights by taking over a special tax district with the authority to control development around its theme park.

In a notice filed on Thursday, Disney challenged a ruling dismissing the suit to a federal appeals court.

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The legal battle stems from the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), whose members were appointed by DeSantis, voiding an agreement that transferred certain powers of Disney’s now-dissolved special district back to the company. Disney claimed that the governor and his allies took over the district to retaliate over its criticism of a Florida education law limiting classroom discussion on sexuality.

DeSantis, in a much-needed victory after ending his White House bid, secured on Wednesday dismissal of the suit. A federal judge ruled that Disney cannot sue the governor and DeSantis’ handpicked board that now controls the district in which the company’s park operates.  And in an endorsement of the law Disney challenged, the court concluded that the statute reshaping the leadership structure and granting DeSantis the authority to appoint every member of the tax district’s governing body is “facially constitutional” and cannot be struck down with a free speech claim

In a statement, a CFTOD spokesperson said, “Disney just can’t win for losing in this lawsuit. First, they voluntarily dismissed almost all their causes of action against the district. Now, they are trying to revive the remaining causes of action that the Judge dismissed based upon well-established federal law. These shameful litigation tactics are costing the district unnecessary legal expenses.  All the while, our board, on behalf of the district, continues to adopt new transparency and accountability governance policies, invest in new infrastructure, reduce procurement costs, reduce the district tax rate and award district contracts to small businesses that were never on the Disney preferred vendor list.”    

If the suit is not revived, Disney is left to fight in state court, where it’s fighting a legal battle brought by DeSantis accusing it of illegally cobbling together a “series of eleventh-hour deals” to transfer the powers of its now-dissolved special district back to the company before he assumed control of the board.

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