Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has instructed state lawmakers to consider repealing the governance structure of Disney World, a decades-old agreement with the state, ratcheting up Republican backlash against the Walt Disney Company for its public opposition to the which opponents have called “Don’t say gay”. law.
The governor expanded the scope of a special legislative session on the state’s redistricting plans to also consider the “termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968,” he announced.
The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967 followed negotiations between Disney leaders and Florida legislators for a community development district encompassing the Lake Buena Vista parcel where Disney operated.
It encompasses two counties and 25,000 acres for the six parks and resorts, and the district government oversees the area’s land use and public services, including water, sanitation, emergency medical and fire protection, as well as maintenance of roads and bridges.
If the district is revoked, the Disney properties could come under the authority of the county government under the state.
the independent has solicited feedback from Disney
The “Parents’ Rights in Education Act” prohibits “sexual orientation or gender identity” instruction from kindergarten through third grade and any discussion “that is not appropriate for the age or development of students ” in other grades.
The broadly drafted law, the subject of a federal lawsuit alleging violations of federal anti-discrimination statutes, could freeze classroom speech involving LGBT+ people and issues, from civil rights history lessons to discussions of LGBT+ students, staff schoolchildren and their families, according to opponents.
After weeks of prodding from LGBT+ advocates and employees, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced his opposition to the bill and vowed to suspend his political donations in the state.
Campaign documents reported by the independent revealed that Disney entities donated tens of thousands of dollars to Florida lawmakers who supported the law, including at least $50,000 to a political action committee supporting the governor’s re-election campaign.
In a March 11 memo, Chapek admitted that Disney had not done enough to oppose the bill and vowed to “fight similar laws in other states.”
Governor DeSantis and members of his administration lashed out at the company, sparking a dispute that turned into Republican threats to punish its operations in the state.
In a statement, Disney said the bill “should never have been passed and should never have become law.”
“Our goal as a company is to have this law repealed by the legislature or struck down by the courts, and we remain committed to supporting state and national organizations working to achieve this,” the company said on March 28, when the governor signed the bill.
Two days later, Florida State Representative Spencer Roach said a group of state lawmakers had met at least twice to discuss possible changes to city government deals affecting Disney in retaliation for what he called the “ideology of wake up” from the company.
“Yesterday was the second meeting in a week with fellow legislators to discuss the repeal of the Reedy Creek Improvements Act of 1967, which allows Disney to act as its own government,” he tweeted on March 30. “If Disney wants to embrace the ‘awakening’ ideology, it seems appropriate for Orange County to regulate them.”
On April 19, Republican State Rep. Randy Fine introduced House Bill 3C, the “Special Independent Districts” bill. A companion measure, Senate Bill 4C, was introduced in the state Senate.
“Disney is a guest in Florida,” Rep. Fine said on Twitter. “Today, we remember them.”
The company is likely well prepared for a political battle in the state capital, with dozens of lobbyists in Tallahassee, though it’s unclear how Disney will fare if the governance structure under which its parks have operated for decades is taken over. by neighboring counties, or whether those counties and the taxpayers who live within them will pay for services now controlled by Disney.
Governor DeSantis also wants to review legislation he signed into law in 2021 that limits how social media platforms and web services can remove users, including a ban on suspending posts from political figures, in the wake of Donald Trump’s removal from Twitter. He also included a provision that makes an exception for “a company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex,” such as Disney.
He claimed last month that the Disney clause was a “last minute” addition meant to “solely protect” the company, “and I opposed that when it happened.”
His own administration, however, helped create that likes of Disney in response to requests from the company, according to emails obtained by the Seeking Rents newsletter.
A federal judge struck down the law last June.