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So much for free speech! This is likely to go down in Governor DeSantis' resume, who is expected to declare his candidacy for U.S. president in coming weeks.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a bill into law that gives a new board he controls the power to void development agreements its predecessor body signed with Disney — the latest episode in a feud between the conservative governor and the entertainment giant.

Under the bill, which passed the Republican-controlled legislature largely along party lines, the Central Tourism Oversight District Board — whose members are appointed by DeSantis — can cancel any deals signed up to three months before the board’s creation.

Walt Disney Co declined to comment.

The legislature formed the board in February to replace the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District to oversee development in the 25,000 acres (10,120 hectares) surrounding Walt Disney World, effectively wresting control from the company and handing it to DeSantis.

Disney, the largest employer in central Florida, and the Republican governor have been battling since last year, when Disney criticized a new state law banning classroom instruction of sexuality and gender identity with younger children.

DeSantis, who is expected to declare his candidacy for U.S. president in coming weeks, has repeatedly attacked “woke Disney” in public remarks, characterizing it as liberal.

Before DeSantis’ appointees took over the board, the company pushed through changes to the special tax district agreement that limited the new body’s action for decades.

The new oversight body in April said Disney’s plans for potential expansion of Disney World did not comply with state law, and declared that agreement void.

Disney filed a lawsuit in federal court the same day, accusing DeSantis of illegally using government 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, saying it sought to void “backroom deals” favorable to Disney.

Disney’s stock is up nearly 16 percent in the year to date, compared with an 8 percent gain in the S&P 500 index.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks and Joseph Ax; additional reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

This article was written by Brad Brooks and Joseph Ax from Reuters and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].


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Tags: disney, disney parks, florida, gay, lgbtq, ron desantis, social issues

Photo credit: Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando: Source: Skift

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