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Florida Senate passes bill to end Disney self-government

TALLAHASSEE, Florida – The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a bill to repeal a law that would allow Walt Disney World to run a private government for its assets in the state, escalating controversy with the entertainment giant over its opposition to it. which critics call ‘Don Law’ t Say Gay ‘.

The proposal could have huge tax implications for Disney, whose theme park series have made Orlando one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world over the decades. Democrats have also warned that the move could cause local homeowners to suffer big tax bills if they have to pay off Disney debt bonds – although such details are unclear.

The move, promoted by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, comes as the governor battles Disney after the company criticized a new GOP law banning teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten until third grade. , as well as instructions that are not “age appropriate”. or developmentally appropriate “.

The bill would abolish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the Disney government is known, and a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. The measure leaves room for district restoration, with a Republican legislator signaling a possible restructuring of a 1967 agreement concluded by lawmakers with the company that allows it to provide services such as spatial planning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure.

“By doing so early, we have until next June or July to collect it, so we’re actually giving more time to be careful,” Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson told reporters after the vote. “I do not know how the end will come, but I know that this is a very worthwhile process that we are following and I think that whatever comes out of it will be better than what we have today.”

However, the move represents the latest blow to a cultural war waged by DeSantis as he claims re-election and is bolstered as a possible GOP candidate for the 2024 presidency through strong opposition to liberal policies on race, gender and abortion.

“If Disney wanted to pick a race, it chose the wrong guy,” DeSantis wrote in a campaign fundraising email Wednesday. “As governor, I was elected to put the people of Florida first, and I will not allow a California-based watchdog to run our state.”

The Democrats, the minority party in the Legislature, opposed the proposal as a clear retaliation against a company that has been a major economic driver in the state.

“Let’s call it what it’s, it’s a punitive, humiliating political retaliation against a company that dared to say the emperor has no clothes, but if they behave this next election round, we might rewrite it,” Sen said. Gary M. Farmer, Democrat.

Disney did not return an email asking for a comment. The company is one of Florida’s largest private employers and last year said it had more than 60,000 employees in the state. It is not immediately clear how exactly Disney or neighboring governments would be affected if the area was dismantled.

The impetus for Disney’s punishment came after it announced it would suspend political donations to the state and said it had pledged to support organizations working to oppose the state’s new law restricting sexual orientation or gender recognition in the classroom.

DeSantis and other Republicans have attacked Disney and other critics of the law, arguing that the policy makes sense and that parents, not teachers, should address such issues with children.

The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and the control it gave Disney over 27,000 acres (11,000 acres) 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 design a futuristic city along with the theme park. However, the city was never realized. Instead, it was transformed into the Epcot theme park.

The Florida House of Representatives is expected to approve the bill Thursday.

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Associated Press author Brendan Farrington contributed to this report

Disney is the parent company of this news station.

Copyright © 2022 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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