Disney self-government in peril after Florida House vote

Apr 21, 2022, 10:06 AM | Updated: Apr 22, 2022, 6:44 pm
FILE - The newly painted Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is seen with t...

FILE - The newly painted Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is seen with the the crest to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the theme park Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The idea was presented to Florida lawmakers 55 years ago: Let Disney form its own government and in exchange it would create a futuristic city of tomorrow. That city never materialized, but Walt Disney World became an economic juggernaut, and its government retained unprecedented powers. Five decades later, Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking lawmakers to end Disney's government in a move that throws a wrench into decades of symbiotic relations between the company and state government.(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday gave final passage to a bill that would dissolve Walt Disney World’s private government, handing Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis a victory in his feud with the entertainment giant over its opposition to a measure that critics have dubbed the ” Don’t Say Gay ” law.

The move could have huge tax implications for Disney, whose series of theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and serves to further sour the relationship between the Republican-led government and a major political player in the state. Disney did not return an email seeking comment Thursday.

For DeSantis, the attack on Disney is his latest salvo in a culture war waged over policies involving race, gender and the coronavirus, battles that have made him one of the most popular GOP politicians in the country and a likely 2024 presidential candidate.

The bill passed by the legislature on Thursday would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the 55-year-old Disney government is known, as well as a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. The measure does allow for the districts to be reestablished, leaving an avenue to renegotiate its future. The bill now moves to DeSantis’ office to be signed into law.

The voting ended a bitter, three-day special legislative session in which lawmakers were tasked with passing a new congressional map drawn by DeSantis but also took up the Disney bill at the governor’s request. Tensions erupted Thursday as Democrats staged a sit-in protest on the House floor against the map, prompting Republicans to walk out briefly.

Opponents of the new map chanted phrases about the suppression of Black voters as GOP lawmakers returned and passed both bills

“It was clear that our requests and proposed solutions were not going to be heard so he rushed it through,” Democratic Rep. Fentrice Driskell said of the Disney measure.

The dispute with the company began with Disney’s criticism of a new law barring instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade as well as instruction that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”

In March, Disney said it would suspend political donations in the state and added that it would in turn support organizations working to oppose the new law. DeSantis and his fellow Republicans then lashed out at Disney, and have defended the law as reasonable.

“Disney and other woke corporations won’t get away with peddling their unchecked pressure campaigns any longer,” DeSantis wrote in a fundraising pitch Wednesday. “If we want to keep the Democrat machine and their corporate lapdogs accountable, we have to stand together now.”

Democrats have criticized the Disney proposal as clear retaliation against the company and warned that local homeowners could get hit with big tax bills if they have to absorb bond debt from Disney — although such details are far from clear.

Disney is one of Florida’s biggest private employers, last year saying it had more than 60,000 workers in the state. It is not immediately clear how the company or local governments around its properties would be affected if the district was dissolved.

The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and the control it gave Disney over 27,000 acres (11,000 hectares) 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 plan a futuristic city along with the theme park. The city never materialized, however; instead, it morphed into the Epcot theme park.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Mississippi justices block more DNA tests in death row case

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that a death row inmate will not be allowed to seek additional DNA testing on crime scene evidence from the shooting deaths of two college students nearly 30 years ago. Willie Jerome Manning, now 54, remains in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He was […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

UK military investigates hacks on Army social media accounts

LONDON (AP) — British military authorities are trying to find out who hacked the army’s social media accounts over the weekend, flooding them with cryptocurrency videos and posts related to collectible electronic art. The investigation was launched after authorized content on the army’s YouTube account was replaced with a video feed promoting cryptocurrencies that included […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

NASA satellite breaks from orbit around Earth, heads to moon

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A satellite the size of a microwave oven successfully broke free from its orbit around Earth on Monday and is headed toward the moon, the latest step in NASA’s plan to land astronauts on the lunar surface again. It’s been an unusual journey already for the Capstone satellite. It was […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

It’s a new era for funding on both sides of abortion debate

NEW YORK (AP) — The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has ushered in a new era of funding on both sides of the abortion debate. With the legality of abortion now up to individual states to determine, an issue long debated by legislators and philanthropists — when it was largely theoretical because only […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Top NGO calls Switzerland ‘safe haven’ for Russian oligarchs

LUGANO, Switzerland (AP) — A leading Swiss nongovernmental group on Monday called out Switzerland as a “safe haven” for Russian oligarchs and as a trading hub for Russian oil, grain and coal. Public Eye urged the Swiss executive branch to “use all levers at its disposal to stop the financing of this inhuman aggression,” in […]
6 hours ago
Some 25 tractors parked outside a distribution center for supermarket chain Albert Heijn during a b...
Associated Press

Dutch farmers block entrances to supermarket warehouses

ZAANDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch farmers angry at government plans to slash emissions used tractors and trucks Monday to blockade supermarket distribution centers, the latest actions in a summer of discontent in the country’s lucrative agricultural sector. The Netherlands’ busiest aviation hub, Schiphol Airport, urged travelers to use public transport to get to its terminals […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Disney self-government in peril after Florida House vote