Florida lawmakers on Thursday voted to strip the Walt Disney Company of its special self-governing status, adding fuel to an ongoing political feud between the company and the governor.
Its special status gave Disney the ability to tax, build roads and control utilities on the lands of its theme parks, and essentially operate as its own municipal government.
The proposal was first introduced on Tuesday by Republican state Senator Jennifer Bradley, though its opponents believe it was driven by Governor Ron DeSantis as retaliation for Disney’s opposition to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
The Parental Rights in Education bill, signed into law by DeSantis, limits primary school teachers from discussing gender and sexual-orientation related issues in classes up to third grade, and potentially through high school.
DeSantis, a Republican, has been at war with the Walt Disney Company ever since CEO Bob Chapek issued a statement criticizing the law and paused donations to Florida politicians.
Disney’s special district has been in effect for 55 years, causing opposing lawmakers and critics to question the timing and speed of the change, which hadn’t been publicly discussed until this week.
State Representative Randy Fine said during an interview on CNBC Thursday that the bill was not retaliatory, but that ‘when Disney kicked the hornet’s nest, we looked at special districts.
Fine said the bill was introduced to even the playing field in Florida, where Disney’s competition parks Universal, SeaWorld and Legoland do not have special districts to operate in.
The district Disney operates in is the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was established in 1967 so that Disney could create its Walt Disney World with no cost to Florida taxpayers.
Local governments near Disney will have until June 2023 to decide how to manage and pay for the massive property’s public services, including things like road maintenance and sewage treatment.
This is a breaking news story, check back for updates…
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