It was just a matter of time before DeSantis got his way.
After the Florida House of Representatives passed the controversial bill that hopes to dissolve Disney’s special treatment ruling in the state, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made the bill final today with one swoop of his pen.
Amid a political boycott of The Walt Disney Company, the Florida Governor’s revenge plot against Disney is now real, taking out Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District.
The divisive Governor signed several bills during a ceremony today, April 22, at a South Florida charter school, including the infamous bill that would, beginning June 2023, revoke the special self-governing privileges afforded to the Walt Disney World Resort. During the “ceremony”, DeSantis said:
“No individual or no company in Florida is treated this way, and it’s not right to have this similar treatment. But you know, they had exercised a lot of power over the years. It was never anything that was debated. In fact, I don’t even know that I knew the name of it prior to this becoming something that was live in the past few months”.
According to the bill’s wording, it will dissolve “any independent special district established by a special act prior to the date of ratification of the Florida Constitution on November 5, 1968 and which was not reestablished, re-ratified, or otherwise reconstituted by a special act or general law after November 5, 1968.”
The move has been seen as retaliation on Republicans’ part for Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s stance on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill passed last month. Disney initially shied away from making a public statement regarding Florida’s new bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which many people believe targets the LGBTQ+ community and restricts conversations about gender and LGBTQ+ identities in schools.
Disney’s aggressive stance caused a war with DeSantis, and now, Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista looks set to be losing its special treatment after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis officially signed the bill.
For DeSantis, the attack on Disney is his latest in a culture war waged over policies involving race, gender, and the coronavirus, battles that have led to controversy and division. At the bill signing ceremony, DeSantis said Disney lied about the content of the education law and the company’s vow to fight the law was unacceptable:
“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re gonna marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state. We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back against that.”
The move could not only have huge tax implications for Disney World, but also for residents of Orange County and Osceola County, who may have to assume Disney’s liabilities of anywhere between $1 billion and $2 billion if the Reedy Creek Improvement District is dissolved.
Since 1967, Walt Disney World has been able to reside in Florida unregulated, acting as its own “government” in a way. The act involved creating a special taxing district that acts with the same authority as a county government. Local taxpayers – residents of Orange County and Osceola County – do not have to pay for building or maintaining Disney’s essential services like water and electricity.
According to Florida state statute 189.072, a majority of the Reedy Creek residents would have to vote in favor of dissolving the district before this can all actually happen. Of course, Ron DeSantis has signed the bill but is it all political theater? Only time will tell.
The Reedy Creek District covers 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), 2 water parks (Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), Disney Springs, 175 lane miles of roadway, 67 miles of waterway, the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, water, electrical, and waste management facilities, as well as over 40,000 hotel rooms and 100s of restaurants and retail stores.
We’ll keep you posted with future updates regarding these political events.