Disney government dissolution bill signed by DeSantis
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Friday to dissolve the private government Walt Disney World controls on its property in the state, punishing the entertainment giant for opposing a new law that critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”
The move is expected to have huge tax implications for Disney and further sour the relationship between the Republican-led government and a major political player whose theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
For DeSantis, the attack on Disney is the latest front in a culture war waged over policies involving race, gender and the coronavirus, battles he has harnessed to make himself one of the most popular Republicans in the country and a likely 2024 presidential candidate.
The law would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the 55-year-old Disney government is known, as well as a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. The measure allows for the districts to be restored, which opens up the possibility of renegotiating the future deal that allows the company services such as zoning and fire protection.
DeSantis said Friday that the company would end up paying more taxes than it currently does and that the law isn’t expected to cause tax increases for residents around Disney. He gave no additional details.
The dispute started with Disney’s criticisms of a new law that bars instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grades. It also prohibits instruction that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” DeSantis, along with his fellow Republicans, have defended the law, saying that parents should discuss such topics with their children, and not teachers. Under pressure, Disney finally said that it would stop political donations to the state and would support groups working against the new law.
“You are a corporation based out of Burbank, California and you’re going to use your economic might against the parents of my state,” DeSantis stated Friday, before signing the bill into effect at a ceremony in Hialeah Gardens. “We see that as a provocation and we’re going back against it. “
The governor has attacked Disney for opposing the bill, portraying them as a purveyor woke ideology that injects inappropriate topics into children’s entertainment. In a fundraising pitch sent out this week, DeSantis told supporters, “It took a look under the hood to see what Disney has become to truly understand their inappropriate influence.”
Republican Rep. Randy Fine, sponsor of the bill to eliminate the Disney district, has said Disney is a guest in the state and that Floridians are not interested in the company’s California values.
” You kick the hornet’s nest, and things will come up,” Fine told lawmakers at the GOP-controlled statehouse.
Democrats have slammed the Disney measure as petty retaliation, warning that homeowners could face tax bills if they have to absorb costs from the company, though details are far from clear.
” The devil is in details, and we don’t yet have the details,” said Jerry Demings of Orange County, which is home to Disney World. He said that it would be “catastrophic” for the budget if the county was forced to pay for the safety and security at the resort.
Disney is one of Florida’s biggest private employers, last year saying it had more than 60,000 workers in the state. It is unclear how the dissolution of the district would affect the company or the local governments that surround its properties.
The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and the control it gave Disney over 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares) in Florida, was a crucial element in the company’s plans to build near Orlando in the 1960s. Company officials said they needed autonomy to plan a futuristic city along with the theme park. However, the city did not materialize. Instead, it became Epcot. The company is a major political participant in Florida and the rest of the United States. The Walt Disney Co. and its affiliates made more than $20 million in political contributions to both Republicans and Democrats in the 2020 campaign cycle, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks such spending.
That same year, Disney-related entities funneled $10.5 million to the America First Action committee, which supports Republican former President Donald Trump. To support Democratic President Joe Biden’s campaign, Disney also contributed $1.2 Million.
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