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DeSantis escalates war with ‘woke’ Disney; says company ‘will live under the same laws as everyone else’

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)
January 13, 2023

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office recently announced that he will propose a bill in the Florida legislature to implement a state board to oversee the Reedy Creek Improvement District, effectively replacing Walt Disney World’s special self-governing power over the special jurisdiction. The move would be DeSantis’ latest in a dispute with Disney after the “woke” entertainment company voiced opposition to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill.

On Jan. 6, DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske tweeted, “The corporate kingdom has come to an end. Under the proposed legislation, Disney will no longer control its own government, will live under the same laws as everyone else, will be responsible for their outstanding debts, and will pay their fair share of taxes. Imposing a state-controlled board will also ensure that Orange County cannot use this issue as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents.”

The Reedy Creek Improvement District is a special governing district for the land on which Disney World sits. The district was created in the 60s with the support of the Disney company. Under that legislation, a five-member Board of Supervisors elected by property owners — Disney — could also levy taxes and impose fees within the boundaries of the district.

In April, DeSantis signed a law that effectively stripped Disney of the special tax status it held in the Reedy Creek Improvement District. DeSantis signed that just weeks after Disney issued a statement opposing Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act.

The Parental Rights in Education Act requires school districts to be transparent and inform parents about the instructional materials they use. The act further prohibits schools from certain types of teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity and prohibits such teaching below certain grade levels. Critics of the legislation called it the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” and said it would harm the LGBT community.

After moving to strip the Reedy Creek Improvement District of its special tax status, DeSantis now appears to be moving to place control of the district in the hands of the state.

DeSantis’ former chief of staff, Adrian Lukis, told Fox News, ”The governor is doing exactly what he said he would. Disney can no longer have its own government and own taxing authority, and Disney — not taxpayers — will have to be responsible for any financial consequences.”

Sources also told Fox News the law DeSantis is proposing would also compel Disney to pay upwards of $700 million dollars in unsecured debt accumulated during the lifespan of the special district.

State Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat from Orlando, told the Orlando Sentinel said she’s concerned DeSantis’ latest move would disrupt Disney’s operations and thus harm a major employer and driver of the local economy.

“It sounds to me from that [DeSantis] is doubling down 100%. He is not even discussing a compromise,” Stewart said.