Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis escalated his attack on The Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday, calling on the state legislature to end a self-governing special district covering Walt Disney World in Orlando.
DeSantis said that lawmakers in a special session this week “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.” The latter is the special district established by state law in 1967, giving Disney control over issues like land use and infrastructure.
DeSantis’ move was the latest wrinkle in an ongoing feud with Disney after the company came out against a parental rights bill, which critics have dubbed the “don’t say gay” law. It restricts teachers from discussing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through the third grade.
The state Legislature is planning a special session this week.
A spokesperson for Disney, which is one of the state’s largest employers, did not have immediate comment. The company initially remained publicly silent about the legislation as it made its way through the Legislature. But after employees and activists called for greater company action to try to stop it, CEO Bob Chapek announced the company’s opposition. On the day that DeSantis signed the bill into law, the company released a statement saying that the legislation “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.”
Rep. Allison Tant, a House Democrat representing the Tallahassee area, tweeted opposition to the governor’s push to repeal special districts. “I never thought I’d see the day that Florida’s largest employer, @WaltDisneyWorld, would be under attack by the Florida Legislature. Disney is larger than most cities, complete w fire stations, police officers, hospitals, & now adding affordable housing. #businessdemocrat.”
Since the company announced its opposition to the parental rights bill, it has become a target on the right, with some political figures, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), seizing on the publicity to make claims that Disney would infuse its content with LGBTQ themes. Meanwhile, other companies that do business in Florida, like NBCUniversal, have remained publicly silent.
DeSantis also wanted Disney to be subject to a new law that allows for social media companies to be sued for the way that they moderate content. That law is being challenged in court.
A number of LGBTQ activists see the Florida parental rights law as DeSantis’ way of drawing attention and support from the right in advance of a 2024 presidential run.
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