Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday the Florida State Legislature will introduce a bill that will stop the Walt Disney Corporation’s attempt to “circumvent” the state’s oversight process.

At a press conference, DeSantis said Disney was in “direct defiance of the will of the people of Florida,” after a Disney-controlled special district board passed a last-minute agreement that gives broad powers to the company before the new state-appointed board could take over.

“We have a government of laws not a government of men,” he said. “We want to make sure Disney lives under the same laws like everyone else.”

Last month, the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District voted to strip powers from the newly created Central Florida Tourism Oversight District over all zoning, infrastructure and air-rights, giving Disney an advantage in development expansion negotiations in the future.

The new state tourism board was created after DeSantis and the Florida legislature clashed with Disney over the company’s public lobbying against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act that prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten to third grade classrooms.

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DeSantis called Disney a California-based, “woke” corporation not aligned with the values of Florida’s parents. Disney said the bill was harmful to LGBTQ youth.

In response, DeSantis and the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature recently abolished the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special tax district that essentially allowed Disney self-governance for the past 55 years.

But in the waning days of the district’s existence, the board — made up of Disney-elected members — negotiated a contract with Disney that leaves DeSantis’ new board effectively powerless beyond maintaining roads and basic infrastructure.

The Sunshine State governor is calling on the legislature to void the contract.

“Disney did special deals to circumvent that whole process because they controlled that board. It’s basically a legal fiction that they negotiated it with themselves to give themselves the ability to maintain their self-governing status,” DeSantis said at the press conference.

The DeSantis administration has previously argued the agreement is likely illegal, but Disney said it followed the law.

“All agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” the company said at the time of the agreement.

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During the press conference, DeSantis said Disney may be “big and powerful,” but “they are not superior to the laws.”

People visit the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., April 18, 2022. | Ted Shaffrey, Associated Press

He said that the conflict between Disney and the state was central to last year’s elections and that Floridians made their voice clear. The state legislature moved to sunset Disney’s self-governing status as a result of what they believed the voters wanted.

But, DeSantis said, “(Disney) thought they could create some type of development agreement that would essentially render everything that we did null and void, and put them in control for perpetuity.”

Lawmakers at the press conference said the bill voiding the contract will be introduced next week. And the new state-appointed board will meet Wednesday to consider, among other things, possibly changing how Disney is taxed by the state, DeSantis said.

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