Disney World castle
Source: Getty Images

Disney World Has Its Own Government — Self-Governing Status, Explained

Danielle Letenyei - Author
By

Apr. 19 2022, Published 3:05 p.m. ET

The ongoing battle between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney Co. over the "Don’t Say Gay" legislation has taken another turn. On April 19, DeSantis announced that the state legislature is considering a bill that would dismantle Disney’s self-governing status. Does Disney World have its own government?

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Yes, Disney World in Florida has its own government that has the same authority and jurisdiction as a county government. It was established in 1967 as a special taxing district called the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID).

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Source: Getty Images
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The district is comprised of over 38 square miles located within Central Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties. However, taxpayer dollars from those counties don’t pay for municipal services within the district, such as electricity, water, roads, and fire protection. Instead, those services are paid for by the district landowner, Walt Disney Co.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District is governed by a five-member Board of Supervisors and advisory boards for planning, pollution control, and the board of appeals.

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“The result is an example of how a working partnership between business and government can be prosperous for both sides,” states the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Is Disney World its own city?

Although Disney World isn’t technically its own city, there are two cities within the district’s jurisdiction — Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista. The residents in these cities are primarily Disney employees and their children. According to 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data, 29 people lived in Bay Lake and 24 lived in Lake Buena Vista.

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The Disney-developed town of Celebration, built in 1993, was also originally part of the district but was de-annexed “so as not to dilute Disney’s control of the government entity,” reports ClickOrlando.com.

DeSantis wants to dismantle Reedy Creek Improvement District (RFID).

Now, Governor DeSantis and other Republican lawmakers want to eliminate the RCID special district. DeSantis has had a beef with Disney ever since the company voiced its opposition to his “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that bans teaching gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

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After the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation passed, Disney announced it would pause making campaign donations in Florida, Politico reports.

“Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” the company said in a statement.

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The new proposed legislation to repeal special districts created prior to 1968 seems especially targeted at the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

“I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful,” DeSantis said during a West Palm Beach conference. “They’ve lost a lot of the pull that they used to have and honestly I think that’s a good thing for our state. You should not have one organization that is able to dictate policy in all these different realms, and they have done that for many, many years. If that’s stops now, which it should, that would be a good thing for Florida.”

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