Florida’sRepublican governor remains upset about Disney’s opposition to the state's “don’t say gay” law and has called a special session of the Florida legislature to follow through with punishing the private corporation for its opposition to government overreach.
Gov. Ron DeSantis wants lawmakers to complete measures needed to permanently strip Disney of its self-governing ability through its control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Last year, Republicans voted to nullify Disney’s special taxation and governance provisions surrounding the Florida campus of Disney World after the company voiced its concerns about the controversial anti-LGBTQ+ law.
“We’re not going to have a corporation controlling its own government. So the state’s going to have a board to run it,” DeSantis said to reporters on Thursday, according toRolling Stone. “So Disney will not have self-governing status anymore.”
He added, “We’re not going to bend the knee to woke executives in California.”
DeSantis and Republican lawmakers generally have joined right-wing pundits in casting a more tolerant worldview — or being “woke” — as unwanted and detrimental to society.
Reedy Creek, the 39-square-mile area that contains Disney World, was established in 1967 as a special taxing district that allowed Disney to act as a county government. Besides collecting local taxes, the company could manage its own fire department, police station, and emergency medical services.
As a result of backlash resulting from its silence last March on the pending “don’t say gay” legislation, Disney, Florida’s largest private employer, condemned the legislation in April. This law, officially titled “Parents’ Rights in Education,” makes it illegal for teachers to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with students in most situations.
After news of Disney’s opposition broke, DeSantis wrote in a fundraising email to supporters, “If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy. I will not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state. Disney has gotten away with special deals from the state of Florida for way too long.”
In the end, the Republican-dominated Florida legislature introduced, passed, and sent to the governor’s desk a measure eliminating special districts, including Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District designation. Then, in less than an hour, DeSantis signed the law.
Through the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney was attracted to build a theme park near Orlando with many incentives that made it possible to finance and develop the necessary infrastructure with little impact on local taxes.
Thus, Disney could request permits for itself to deal with various issues typically delayed by bureaucratic red tape. In addition, Disney had a special tax district designation, estimated to have saved the company millions of dollars annually. However, this arrangement will expire in June because of the new law.
DeSantis’s call for a special session is to wrap up transition details. In about “a week or two,” he said, a meeting would be held, and it would address a “whole bunch” of issues, including ensuring Disney does not have self-government status anymore, the Miami Herald reported.
Amplified by right-wing pundits, DeSantis had made unfounded claims that Disney promotes child abuse and sexual exploitation to justify his actions against it. At the height of his dispute with Disney in March, he accused the company of sexualizing kindergarteners.
Disney was a sponsor of DeSantis’s inauguration in January, the Washington Post reported.