Disney reached a settlement Wednesday in a suit to determine who controls its governing district, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill targeting squatters.

Settlement reached in lawsuit between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allies and Disney

Disney and allies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis reached a settlement agreement Wednesday in a lawsuit over who controls Walt Disney World’s governing district.

In a meeting, the members of the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District approved the settlement agreement, ending almost two years of litigation that was sparked by DeSantis’ takeover of the district from Disney supporters following the company’s opposition to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The 2022 law banned classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades and was championed by DeSantis, who used Disney as a punching bag in speeches until he suspended his presidential campaign this year.

As punishment for Disney’s opposition, DeSantis took over the governing district through legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and appointed a new board of supervisors. Disney sued DeSantis and his appointees, claiming the company’s free speech rights were violated for speaking out against the legislation. A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in January.

Before control of the district changed hands from Disney allies to DeSantis appointees early last year, the Disney supporters on its board signed agreements with Disney shifting control over design and construction at Disney World to the company. The new DeSantis appointees claimed the “eleventh-hour deals” neutered their powers, and the district sued the company in state court in Orlando to have the contracts voided.

Disney filed counterclaims that include asking the state court to declare the agreements valid and enforceable.

Disney also released a statement in regards to the settlement Wednesday morning:

"We are pleased to put an end to all litigation pending in state court in Florida between Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. This agreement opens a new chapter of constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district and serves the interests of all parties by enabling significant continued investment and the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunity in the State."

DeSantis signs a law that will increase penalties for 'squatters' in Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 621 into law Wednesday, which will make it easier for property owners to remove unauthorized occupants under certain conditions.

The new law also provides language that allows for sheriffs in Florida to arrest unauthorized occupants of homes and protects officers from liability for destruction or damage in fulfilling those arrests.

Under the new law, property owners have to prove that the following conditions were met in order to request law enforcement assistance in removing occupants:

  • The individual has unlawfully entered and remains on the property;
  • The individual has been directed to leave the property by the owner but has not done so; and
  • The individual is not a current or former tenant in a legal dispute.

“We are putting an end to the squatter’s scam in Florida,” said DeSantis. “While other states are siding with the squatters, we are protecting property owners and punishing criminals looking to game the system.”

In addition to creating a system to remove unauthorized occupants, the law also creates harsher penalties for those removed.

Anyone found to have made a false statement in writing to obtain real property can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Additionally, anyone who intentionally causes $1,000 or more in damages can be charged with a second-degree felony.

Finally, people who knowingly advertise to sell or rent of a residential property without authority from the property owner can be charged with a first-degree felony.

The new law will go into effect on July 1.

Florida Supreme Court has two decisions to release

The Florida Supreme Court is back in the spotlight this week. As soon as Thursday, they may publish rulings on two major issues that could impact the 2024 election.

Those decisions need to be released no later than April 1.

Those rulings will determine whether voters get to decide on recreational marijuana and legal protections for abortion.

The big issue is Amendment 4. If passed, it would make abortion constitutionally protected in Florida and allow access to the procedure up to 24 weeks into a woman's pregnancy.

This obviously is a sensitive issue for a lot of people.

Currently‚ Florida law bans abortion at 15 weeks.

Meanwhile, there is also a six-week ban that’s awaiting a separate legal review.

Supporters and opponents of the amendment say this is a high stakes moment.

“I’m very concerned that extremist won’t stop at abortion," House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell said. "They won’t stop there. They showed us they will come for our freedoms, even in respects to IVF and family planning."

“This will be a real test case, especially in red states for the abortion industry if it wants to go forth doing this in other states with a conservative bench just like Florida,” said Andrew Shirvell, with Florida Voice for the Unborn.

The court traditionally publishes opinions once a week on Thursdays. That means an opinion could be available as soon as Thursday or as late as Monday.