Disney vs. Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ feud advances with new proposed legislation
Florida lawmakers will move to increase state control of Walt Disney World’s private government, according to a notice published Friday, the latest development in a feud over a law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”
The notice posted on the Osceola County website said the Republican-controlled statehouse will take up legislation changing the structure and powers of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the 55-year-old Disney government is known.
A bill has not yet been filed detailing which changes would be under consideration. The notice serves as a procedural step in what has become a closely watched process between Disney and Florida.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last year signed legislation that would dissolve the Disney government in June, a move aimed at punishing the company for its public opposition to a Florida law that bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and lessons deemed not age appropriate.
Additionally, Disney said it would suspend political donations in the state and that it would support organizations working to oppose the education law.
Florida’s Senate on Wednesday voted to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which allows Disney to function as its own government.
DeSantis and state Republicans slammed Disney, saying the entertainment giant had become a purveyor of so-called woke ideologies that are inappropriate for children.
The squabble marked a rare moment of discord between the state and Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers and a major political donor. It also provided another front in an ongoing culture war that has made DeSantis one of the nation’s most popular Republicans.
The creation of the Reedy Creek district was instrumental in Disney’s decision to build near Orlando in the 1960s. Having a separate government allows the company to provide zoning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure services on its sprawling property.
The language of Friday’s notice aligns with assurances that Republican lawmakers and DeSantis have made regarding the district’s future, including a pledge that the district’s debts and bond obligations would not fall to local county governments.
The notice also says the legislation would intend to increase state accountability of the district, change how its governing body is selected, and revise permitting rules and the district’s regulatory frameworks, among other things.
Iger has already taken steps to undo some of the organizational changes made by his predecessor, but his return to the company comes with many challenges.
“Disney will no longer control its own government, will live under the same laws as everyone else, will be responsible for their outstanding debts, and will pay their fair share of taxes,” Taryn Fenske, a spokeswoman for DeSantis, said in a statement. “Imposing a state-controlled board will also ensure that Orange County cannot use this issue as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents.”
The Legislature‘s next regular session is in March.