Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested the Legislature on Tuesday to abolish a legislation that allows Walt Disney World to run its properties in the state as a private government, the latest salvo in a fight between the governor and the entertainment giant over the “Don’t Say Gay” rule, as opponents have termed it.
DeSantis, a rising Republican governor and possible presidential contender in 2024, has clashed with Disney over the latter’s objection to a new legislation prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity training in kindergarten through third grade.
DeSantis increased the stakes on Tuesday.
The governor issued a proclamation allowing the GOP-controlled statehouse to take up proposals removing Disney’s self-governing district as lawmakers returned to the Capitol for a special legislative session on congressional redistricting. Republicans swiftly proposed legislation to do so.
“Today, I’m announcing that we’re increasing the scope of what they’ll be contemplating this week.” “Yes, they will consider the congressional map, but they will also consider terminating all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” DeSantis said at a press conference, referring to Disney’s governing district without naming it. He didn’t go into detail.
On Tuesday, Disney representatives did not respond to an emailed request for comment. It was unclear how the district’s abolition would effect the corporation or surrounding municipalities right away.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District is a Disney-controlled private government that was established by the state legislature in 1967 to offer government services such as zoning, fire protection, utilities, and infrastructure.
The establishment of the district, and the authority it granted Disney over 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares) of Florida property, was a critical component of the company’s 1960s ambitions to construct near Orlando. Officials from the company stated that they required autonomy in order to develop a futuristic metropolis in addition to the theme park. However, the city never came to be; instead, it became the EPCOT theme park.
Following Disney’s announcement that it will cease political donations in the state due to the new Parental Rights in Education law, the movement to penalize the firm has intensified. Opponents nicknamed the bill “Don’t Say Gay,” claiming that excluding sexual orientation and gender identity from early childhood education would marginalize LGBTQ individuals.
Disney is one of Florida’s largest private employers, with about 60,000 employees as of last year. LGBTQ employees at the corporation chastised CEO Bob Chapek for what they called his tardiness in speaking out against the measure. Some employees protested by walking off the work.
DeSantis has regularly slammed Disney and legislation critics, getting a lot of attention in conservative media circles. He maintains that the policy is appropriate and that it is up to parents, not instructors, to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.
Republican lawmakers have filed plans to disband the Disney district by June 2023, indicating that they are open to penalizing the company. DeSantis has been a strong governor, aggressively advancing his agenda in the statehouse, and he has the support of both the Republican Senate president and House speaker on the Disney issue.
Democrats slammed the governor’s action as retaliation for the company’s opposition to the education plan. Disney, according to some, has been a big economic engine in the state.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Democrat, remarked, “What world are we living in right now?” “Florida is the state of liberty. He takes out the Gatling pistol if they disagree with the governor.”
In the battle of words between DeSantis and Disney, retired Rollins College political scientist Richard Foglesong, whose book “Married to the Mouse” describes the creation of Reedy Creek, said he first assumed “cooler heads would prevail.”
“I suppose I was mistaken. Foglesong added, “I misjudged — or underestimated — Governor DeSantis.” “I regard it as a real threat,” says the author.