Disney Stripped of Self Governing Status in Florida

On Thursday, Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would end Walt Disney World’s special governing power in the state.

This move could entail huge tax implications for Disney, whose theme parks have made Orlando into one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations. This would also further embitters the relationship of the state’s Republican-led government and an influential political player in the state.

Now, the bill will go to the desk of Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has had tirades with Disney following the latter’s opposition to a bill that he signed, prohibiting classroom instruction connected to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” with kids third grade or younger “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

The passage of this bill in the state’s House of Representatives comes just a day after the Florida Senate approved a measure by a vote of 23-16, dissolving Disney’s special status that the state granted the company more than 50 years ago.

The special status, which is known as The Reed Creek Improvement Act, was signed into law back in May 1967 by Gov. Claude Kirk as a response to Disney’s lobbying efforts. The entertainment company proposed the creation of a recreation-oriented development that would stand on 25,000 acres of property. This would be located in a remote area of the state’s Orange and Osceola counties, which was made up of 38.5 square miles o mostly uninhabited pasture and swamplands.

The two counties did not have the means needed to bring the project to life. Therefore, Florida’s legislature at the time collaborated with Disney to establish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which is a special taxing district that allowed the entertainment company to seemingly have the same authority and responsibility as that of a county government.

“What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power,” DeSantis mentioned during a press conference. “I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years.”

Shortly after the Florida governor signed the parental rights bill, Disney released the statement, promising to fight the said law in court.

“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” Disney’s statement reads. “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. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

DeSantis has pushed back against Disney several times before and vowed to fight the “wokeness” that he claims the company is promoting.

“Look, there’s policy disputes, and that’s fine,” the governor said earlier this month, “but when you’re trying to impose a woke ideology on our state, we view that as a significant threat.”

“This wokeness will destroy this country if we let it run unabated,” he went on to say. “So in Florida, we take a very big stand against that.”

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