Florida Governor’s Bid to Punish Walt Disney World Gains Momentum

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ efforts to strip The Walt Disney Company of autonomy over the land on which it built its massive theme park and hotel complex, this week the state legislature approves a bill finalizing the change. process to do.

The move is widely seen as an effort by DeSantis to punish the entertainment conglomerate for publicly opposing state laws last year that limit the extent to which schools can teach students about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. I’m here. This measure is commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“It’s clear that this is no longer controlled by the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Wednesday. “So there’s a new sheriff in town, and that’s exactly what happens.”

Disney is widely expected to sue Florida if the bill is passed and DeSantis signs it, and the controversy could continue for some time.

new name, new government

The land covered by the bill is called the Reedy Creek Improved District (RCID), a 101-square-kilometer area in Orange and Osceola counties created in 1967 at the request of Disney. theme park there.

Since then, the company has built a complex of four theme parks, two water parks, dozens of hotels, restaurants and other entertainment venues, attracting tens of millions of tourists each year and more than 75,000. are hiring

Since 1967, RCID has been governed by a Board of Directors, whose members are appointed by Disney. The board has all the powers that a county-level government would possess, including the ability to collect taxes and incur debts. It also manages police, fire and emergency services, roads, electrical and sewage systems, and handles a range of other responsibilities that local governments normally do.

Importantly, RCID was created to be exempt from many state regulations, such as building codes and land use regulations.

Under a bill passed by Congress, RCID will be renamed the Central Florida Tourist Watch District. The Board currently governing RCID will be replaced by her five-member Board, all of whose members will be appointed by the Governor.

However, Disney will remain responsible for any debt incurred by the district in the form of more than $1 billion in bonds. When the legislator first proposed repealing his RCID, some experts warned that the district’s debt would be transferred to taxpayers in Orange and Osceola counties. The bill passing the House of Representatives makes it clear that Disney will pay off its debt through taxes that the new agency will collect.

future unknown

It remains unclear whether changes in the governance of the lands on which Disney’s theme parks operate will lead to actual changes to the company’s attractions.

Richard Foglesong, professor emeritus at Rollins College in Florida and author of the 2003 book Married to a Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlandoto VOA, DeSantis and his fellow Republicans in Congress made clear their plans to change the way Disney operates in the state, largely because the driving force behind the change had little to do with the theme parks themselves. not

“This started because the governor wanted to punish Disney for going against the ‘don’t say you’re gay’ law,” Foglesong said. “It didn’t start with complaints about how Disney uses its special powers.”

Foglesong said the board’s willingness to help with the park’s day-to-day operations has a lot to do with the composition of the board that DeSantis appoints.

One of the factors causing some concern is the proposed barring from sitting on the new board of directors anyone who has worked in the theme park industry or the entertainment industry more broadly in the past three years. He said it was a provision in the draft bill.

“It raises the question of whether the board has the expertise to run the parks,” he said. “But it also raises the question of whether to continue the culture war against Disney.”

“Awakened” War

DeSantis is widely expected to run for president in 2024, challenging former President Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. Make a name for yourself on the national stage.

There is no clear definition of “awakened ideology,” but DeSantis uses the term to teach academic programs that advocate broad acceptance of LGBTQ people and that the United States has a problem with systemic racism. attacked people. Young people “hating America” ​​and making white children feel guilty about historical wrongs like slavery.

While many progressives see the turmoil over “awakened ideology” as engineered by social conservatives for political gain, DeSantis supporters view the governor’s stance on Disney as I wholeheartedly support you.

“Disney management thought it was okay to go too far politically with no repercussions. But they were wrong and Disney has been losing to Ron DeSantis ever since.” Gabriel Llanes, executive director of Lady For Lone, the political action committee that supports DeSantis for president, said in a statement emailed to VOA.

“As long as Disney continues to play the ‘awakened’ game, DeSantis should strip the company of the privileges it once had and stand up for the tens of millions of Florida citizens who are sick of waking politics.” Lanes wrote. “While the corporate elite panders to the radical left, DeSantis remains an advocate for conservatives.”

In a statement issued to the media, Disney World President Jeff Valle said, “Given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, we are monitoring the progress of the complex legislation.

“Disney operates under a variety of models and jurisdictions around the world and remains committed to providing the millions of guests who visit each year with the highest quality experience, regardless of the outcome,” said Vahle. says Mr.

opposition in parliament

Democratic Rep. Anna Escamani, whose legislative district includes the area around Walt Disney World, accuses the governor of starting a “power grab” and has been vocal in her battle with DeSantis and the entertainment conglomerate I’ve been

Eskamani has proposed several amendments to the bill that will pass Florida’s House of Representatives, all of which may fail. Expanding the boards that oversee the districts, she ex officio comprises three local mayors and one local county official member.

She also proposed an amendment to change the district’s new name from the proposed Central Florida Tourism Watch District to “Florida’s Attempt to Silence Critical and Independent Speech and Thought,” with the acronym “FASCIST.” I suggested.

https://www.voanews.com/a/desantis-bid-to-punish-walt-disney-world-gains-steam-/6956832.html Florida Governor’s Bid to Punish Walt Disney World Gains Momentum

Exit mobile version