TALLAHASSEE, Florida. – The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday gave final passage to a bill that would dissolve the private government of Walt Disney World, giving Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis a victory in his feud with the entertainment giant over its opposition to a as critics have dubbed it “Don’t Say Gay”.
The move could have huge tax implications for Disney, whose series of theme parks have turned Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and serve to make the relationship even worse between the Republican-led government and a major political player in the state.
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For DeSantis, the attack on Disney is his last salvo in a culture war fought on politics such as race, gender and the coronavirus, battles that have made him one of the nation’s most popular GOP politicians and a likely 2024 presidential candidate.
The dispute with Disney involves the company’s criticism of a new law banning teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade as well as teaching that is not “appropriate to age or development”.
In March, Disney announced it would suspend political donations in the state and added that it would in turn support organizations that oppose the new law. DeSantis and his fellow Republicans then lambasted Disney and defended the law as reasonable.
“Disney and other woke corporations will no longer get away with peddling their unchecked pressure campaigns,” DeSantis wrote in a fundraising pitch Wednesday. “If we’re going to keep the Democratic machine and its corporate lackeys accountable, we need to unite now.”
The bill passed by the Legislature on Thursday would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the Disney government is known, along with a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. The measure restores the districts, leaving an avenue to renegotiate its future. It is now moving to DeSantis’ office to be signed into law.
Osceola County officials released the following statement in response to the passage of the bill:
“Now that the Legislature has passed a bill to disband the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the Osceola County government will begin an analysis to understand the impacts in preparation for this coming into effect, including the assessment of any cost changes to Osceola as a result. As Disney and Reedy Creek are self-contained, we do not know what tax liabilities will be burdened after June 2023. Over the years, Disney has been a strong community partner and we expect that relationship to continue as we work together to a transition plan.
Democrats slammed the proposal as clear retaliation against the company and warned local property owners could be hit with big tax bills if they were to absorb Disney’s bond debt – though those details are far from clear.
disney is one of Florida’s largest private employers, reporting last year that 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 were disbanded.
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 construction projects near Orlando in the 1960s. Company officials said they needed autonomy to plan a futuristic city with the theme park. The city never materialized, however; instead, it turned into an Epcot theme park.
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