Florida legislature approves bill allowing board to cancel Disney deals

(Reuters) – Florida’s Senate on Thursday passed a bill that will allow a tourism board appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to cancel development agreements its predecessor body signed, the latest salvo against the Walt Disney Co from the conservative leader.

Under the bill, which now goes to DeSantis for signing into law, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board, appointed by DeSantis to oversee development in and around Disney’s theme parks, can cancel agreements that were signed up to three months before the board’s creation.

The board was formed by Florida’s legislature in February. It replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District as the body overseeing the 25,000 acres surrounding the Walt Disney World resort.

Disney did not reply to a request for comment on the bill.

Disney, the largest employer in central Florida, and DeSantis, a Republican, have been feuding since last year, when Disney criticized a state measure banning classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity with younger children.

DeSantis, who is expected to soon declare his candidacy for U.S. president, has repeatedly attacked “woke Disney” in public remarks.

Disney last month filed a lawsuit in federal court, accusing DeSantis of illegally using state power to punish the company for exercising its free speech rights.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board responded with its own lawsuit in a state court this week, saying it sought to void “backroom deals” favorable to Disney.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sonali Paul)