Tallahassee, Florida. — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday urged the Legislature to repeal a law that allows Walt Disney World to operate privately over its properties in the state, the latest bout of a dispute between the governor and the Florida giant. training..
DeSantis, a rising GOP governor and potential 2024 presidential candidate, has fought Disney over the company’s opposition to a new law that bans instructions on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.
On Tuesday, DeSantis upped the ante.
As lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill for a, the governor issued a proclamation allowing the GOP-controlled state house to take on bills eliminating Disney’s autonomous district. Republicans quickly came up with proposals to do so.
“I’m announcing today that we’re expanding the call of what they’re going to consider this week. And so, yes, they’re going to be considering the Congressional map, but they’re also going to be considering ending all the special districts that were enacted in Florida before 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” DeSantis told a news conference, referring to the company’s government district without mentioning Disney by name. He didn’t elaborate.
Disney representatives did not return an emailed request for comment Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how eliminating the district would affect the company or neighboring governments.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District is a private government controlled by Disney World and established by the State Legislature in 1967 that allows it to provide government services such as zoning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure.
The creation of the district and the control it gave Disney over 27,000 acres in Florida was a crucial element in the company’s plans to build near Orlando in the 1960s. theme park. The city never materialized, however; instead, it became the EPCOT theme park.
The effort to punish the company comes after Disney announced it would suspend political donations in the state due to the new Parental Rights in Education Act. Opponents dubbed the law “Don’t Say Gay,” arguing that barring classes on sexual orientation and gender identity in the first grades would marginalize LGBTQ people.
Disney is one of Florida’s largest private employers: Last year, the company said it had more than 60,000 workers in the state.who work for the company criticized CEO Bob Chapek for what they said was his slow response speaking out against the project. Some left work in protest.
DeSantis has repeatedly attacked Disney and critics of the law, garnering considerable attention in conservative media spheres. He insists the policy is reasonable and says parents, not teachers, should address issues of sexual orientation and gender identity with children.
Republican lawmakers seem receptive to punishing Disney by introducing proposals that would dissolve the district by June 2023. DeSantis has been a powerful governor, effectively pushing his priorities in the state house, and both the GOP Senate chairman and the president of the Chamber support him on the Disney issue.
Democrats were quick to criticize the governor’s move as retribution for the company’s stance on the education bill. Some have pointed out that Disney has been a major economic engine in the state.
“What world are we living in right now?” asked Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson. “It’s Florida’s state of liberty. If they disagree with the governor, he brings the Gatling gun.”
Attempts by Democrats to water down the bill that would dissolve the six special districts failed in the Florida Senate on Tuesday night, CBS Orlando affiliate WKMG-TV reported.
Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale has tried to amend the measure so that, rather than getting rid of special districts next year, the state would conduct a study to determine what, if any, impacts the bill would have.
The amendment failed on a voice vote.
Retired Rollins College political scientist Richard Foglesong, whose book, “Married to the Mouse” recounts the formation of Reedy Creek, said he initially thought “cooler heads would prevail” in the war of words between DeSantis and Disney.
“I believe I was wrong. I overestimated – or underestimated – Governor DeSantis,” Foglesong said. “I see this as a legitimate threat.”