FILE PHOTO: People gather ahead of the “Festival of Fantasy” parade at the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida, U.S. July 30, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo
By Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine
(Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ new oversight board has discovered another “11th hour agreement” that allows Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) Co to set its own utility rates at its Orlando theme parks, the board’s chairman said on Wednesday.
A Disney subsidiary, which provides utility services to the central Florida district that includes the Walt Disney World Resort, negotiated an agreement in February to extend its contract through 2032, Chairman Martin Garcia said at a public meeting. Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Last Friday afternoon I learned for the first time about one of these new 11th hour agreements entered into between Disney and the district. This one relates to our utility services,” Garcia said. “We’ll have to evaluate the legality of that agreement, that essentially enables Disney to set their utility rates.
“I’ve never heard of such a thing,” Garcia said.
The board was established to provide state oversight of a special district around Walt Disney World.
DeSantis, a likely Republican presidential candidate who has frequently attacked “woke Disney,” said the company has long operated with an “unfair advantage” in the state through the district.
He has previously complained about an agreement Disney made with outgoing board members to preserve the company’s option to add a fifth major theme park and more retail space and hotel rooms at the resort.
Legislation filed this week would seek to invalidate the agreement.
State Republicans last year began targeting Disney after it publicly clashed with DeSantis over a law that restricts classroom instruction of gender and sexual orientation.
Republicans named the bill the Parental Rights in Education Act, while opponents criticized it as the “Don’t say gay” law.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has called moves to limit Disney’s oversight of its theme parks “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”