Florida governor Ron DeSantis is escalating his feud with the Walt Disney Co. after the entertainment giant voiced opposition to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation last month.
DeSantis said on Tuesday that he is expanding a special session of the state legislature to consider eliminating the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a designation that has essentially allowed Disney to establish its own government for the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and other Disney theme parks in Orlando. That designation allows the company to control its own emergency services, infrastructure, and construction permitting.
The elimination of that district could potentially impact several of the park’s functions, as it also gives Disney the power to issue bonds and avoid separate government approvals when it decides to build new rides and structures.
“I am announcing today that we are expanding the call of what [the legislature is] going to be considering this week,” DeSantis said at a press conference. “And so yes, they will be considering their congressional map. But they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968. And that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
DeSantis had previously only said he was “receptive” to changing the district. With Tuesday’s action, though, he called on state lawmakers to review Reedy Creek and other special improvement districts to see if they serve the public interest.
Disney is one of Florida’s biggest employers, and had a $75.2 billion annual economic impact on central Florida in 2019. That gives it a lot of political pull, but last month Disney CEO Bob Chapek came out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (following unprecedented outrage among workers at his prior silence). The new company leader also announced Disney would pause political contributions in the state, and DeSantis slammed the company, calling it “woke.”
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