Florida Lawmakers Pass Bill to 'Remind Disney It's a Guest'

Move would strip Walt Disney World of self-governing status
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2022 3:00 PM CDT
Updated Apr 21, 2022 2:04 PM CDT
DeSantis Steps Up Feud With Disney
A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse stand near the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

(Newser) Update: Florida's full legislature has now passed a bill to repeal a law granting Walt Disney World's properties self-governing status. The move could have huge tax implications for Disney, per the AP. The vote escalates the clash between Disney and Republican Gov. Ron De Santis over what critics call the "Don't Say Gay" law, the New York Times reports. GOP Rep. Randy Fine said the bill was to remind Disney that it is a "guest in Florida," reports the Tallahassee Democrat. He said the bill wouldn't take effect until June 2023, giving Disney time to rethink its criticism of state laws. The House passed the measure Thursday, following the state Senate's lead. Our story from Tuesday follows:

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in an apparent effort to punish Disney for opposing a controversial new state law, is seeking to strip Walt Disney World of its self-governing status. The Republican governor said Tuesday that a special legislative session already in progress will address a bill that would eliminate Disney's self-governing district in central Florida, Politico reports. Walt Disney himself pushed for the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District in the 1960s as Disney bought land for what would become Walt Disney World.

Lawmakers will be "considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968," DeSantis said Tuesday, per the Orlando Sentinel. "And that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District." Any changes would not take effect until next year. The governor has been feuding with Disney since the company announced its opposition to a law that bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, the AP reports. Disney has suspended political donations in Florida over what critics call the "Don't Say Gay" law.

The self-governing status allows Disney to provide government services including zoning, utilities, and emergency services in around 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties. Politico reports that DeSantis' decision to target Disney was slammed by Democratic state Rep. Anna V. Eskami, who tweeted: "Welcome to Florida’s petty & punitive state government." She added: "so basically Republicans are punishing Disney right now but this can be 'reconsidered' next year if Disney is on their best behavior w/DeSantis. This is some authoritarian trash." (Read more Florida stories.)

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