Why are Disney and DeSantis fighting in Florida?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida legislature has passed a bill to dissolve a Disney-controlled private government that offers municipal-like services for its 27,000 acres (nearly 11,000 acres) in Sunshine State.

The proposal, pushed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, was seen in large part as a retaliation by Disney’s critics of a new state law that critics called “Don’t Say Gay,” which bans instruction on sexual orientation and identity. gender in kindergarten to third. degree.

The entertainment giant has not publicly spoken out on a proposal to dissolve its 55-year-old government.


The bill passed by the legislature on Thursday would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as known to the Disney government, as well as a handful of other similar districts by June 2023.


The move allows districts to be reinstated, leaving a path for Disney and lawmakers to renegotiate their agreement between now and June 2023.

“By doing so early, we have until next June or July to put this together, so we’re actually giving ourselves more time to be thoughtful,” said Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson. “I don’t know how the end will come, but I know this is a very worthy process that we are going through and I think what comes out will be better than what we have today.”


The bill is now awaiting the expected signature of the governor.

Although the details are far from clear, the proposal could have huge tax implications for Disney. Democratic state lawmakers who oppose the bill have also warned that it could cause homeowners to be affected by high taxes if they have to absorb the costs the company paid.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, whose county is partially home to Disney World, said it would be “catastrophic for our budget” if the county had to bear the costs of public safety at the theme park complex. Reedy Creek is currently reimbursing the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for public safety costs.


“If that district disappears and they no longer pay those public safety costs, and then it has to go to the other county budgets, it’s a net loss to the rest of Orange County taxpayers,” Demings said.


The company sold the idea to Florida lawmakers in 1967 as part of its plans to build an expansive east coast theme park that would include a futuristic city.

The city never materialized, but Walt Disney World nevertheless became an entertainment giant in Orlando, though it still retained the governmental powers that allowed it to decide what and how to build and issue bonds and provide services such as zoning, fire protection and public services.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District, as it is known to the Disney government, has been authorized to build its own roads, run its own wastewater treatment plants, operate its own fire department, establish its own codes of conduct. build and inspect Disney buildings to ensure safety.


The district had $ 169 million in revenue and $ 178 million in spending in the current budget year.

Disney is a major political player in Florida as well as in the rest of the country. A 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 of these expenses.

That same year, Disney-related entities channeled $ 10.5 million to the America First Action Committee, which supports former Republican President Donald Trump. Disney also contributed $ 1.2 million to support President Joe Biden’s campaign.

In response to the gender instruction law, Disney announced that it would suspend political donations in the state and support organizations that oppose it.



DeSantis criticized Disney following the company’s public opposition to the gender instruction law.

This week, as lawmakers returned to the Capitol for a special legislative session focused on redistributing Congressional districts, DeSantis issued a proclamation that also allowed them to pass legislation that would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

For the governor, the attack on Disney is his last salvo in a cultural war waged by policies that include race, gender and coronavirus, battles that have made him one of the most popular Republican politicians in the country and a likely 2024 presidential candidate.

“If Disney wants to fight, they’ve chosen the wrong guy,” the governor wrote in an email to raise funds. “As governor, I was elected to put the people of Florida first, and I will not allow a California-based smart corporation to run our state.”


Republican Rep. Randy Fine, a sponsor of the bill to eliminate the district, said it’s time to change.

“Kick the hornet’s nest, things come up. And I’m going to say this: I have one thing: this bill is aimed at a company. Go to Walt Disney Co. said Fine. “Do you want to know why? Because they are the only state-owned company that has ever been granted the right to govern themselves. ”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

Why are Disney and DeSantis fighting in Florida?

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