Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis just went to the next level in his toe to toe battle with Disney. He brought the fight into a special session of the state legislature and asked that they consider eliminating the special taxing district that allows Disney to act as their own local government.
In the beginning, the state legislature special session was called so that the lawmakers might turn over redistricting powers to Governor DeSantis. Some thought that he wanted to change the districts with large Black populations which would give the GOP an advantage in coming elections.
But the governor has a surprise for the legislative session. The changes DeSantis wanted to become about when Disney challenged the governor by opposing his law restricting schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity to students as young as 5 years old. Those who oppose this law refer to it as the “Don’t Say Gay” policy. Disney had no trouble using its massive power to effectively criticize what they called the anti-LGBTQ measure.
The Republican governor asked the Florida lawmakers to consider the termination of all special districts that had been enacted in Florida before 1968. This would include the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
A proclamation signed by DeSantis states that “it is necessary to review such independent special districts to ensure that they are appropriately serving the public interest.”
The Reedy Creek initiative gave the Disney Corporation extraordinary benefits in 1967. According to NBC News, this arrangement enabled the company not to have property taxes or any local government regulations.
Governor DeSantis believes that Disney “crossed the line,” by opposing the new law and GOP lawmakers were then willing to bring the outdated corporate benefits onto the table for new discussion.
At first, Disney was criticized for not speaking out against the new law in Florida. That prompted Disney CEO Bob Chapek to apologize for remaining silent.
“It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down,” Chapek said. “I am sorry.”
If the lawmakers in Florida take away these unusual benefits that Disney has in the state, they would be responsible for millions of dollars a year in local taxes and they would not have ultimate power from being their own local government.
Democrats in the state just see this as a retaliatory move from the GOP. State Senator Janet Cruz said, “If this isn’t the grandest form of bullying that I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is. I have this vision of a mousetrap that we’ve created, and I see us leaning on the neck of the mouse for 12 months, just to step on Mickey’s neck.”
But Senator Jennifer Bradley said that the legislation is not an attempt to villainize Disney but to reassess its legal authority after more than 50 years. She said they have been able to make their own rules and their broad powers have finally been brought to light.
The truth is that Democrats have for a long time been critical of the power that Disney holds over lawmakers in the state. They have donated a massive amount of money to politicians in the past, and they have mostly been Republicans, including DeSantis.
But DeSantis has called the company out calling Disney a “woke corporation.” He also said that they use their entertainment platform to “inject a lot of these topics into programming for very young kids.”
It looks like Disney is now going to have to pay for its progressive political stand. They certainly don’t seem like they are “the happiest place on earth.”