Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Friday to abolish Disney’s self-governing district in Orlando, punishing the company for its opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The bill would dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which covers nearly 40 square miles of Orange and Osceola counties and encompasses the Disney theme parks and resorts. The district, created in 1967, gives Disney the power to enact its own land-use rules and to tax itself to provide services.
“I’m not comfortable having that type of agenda get special treatment in my state,” the governor said. “So the bill here sets the marker.”
DeSantis has been at war with Disney since last month, when the company — under pressure from its employees — voiced its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education law. The law forbids classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, requires that any discussion in later grades be “age appropriate” and gives parents the power to sue school districts for alleged violations.
In interviews and at public appearances, DeSantis has accused Disney of “trying to impose a woke ideology on our state.”
“We view that as a significant threat,” DeSantis said on “Fox & Friends” earlier this month. “This wokeness will destroy this country if we let it run unabated.”
Disney has not commented publicly on the new law. The law is set to take effect on June 1, 2023, and could well face legal challenges before then.
If it goes into effect, Disney would be beholden to Orange and Osceola counties to maintain the roads and sewer systems at the parks, and to provide other public services. The counties would face additional expenses, which could well be borne by taxpayers, and would be on the hook to service nearly $1 billion in debt. Scott Randolph, the elected tax collector in Orange County, has estimated that the county’s burden would amount to $163 million a year.
The bill passed the Legislature on Thursday, as part of a special session originally called to deal with congressional redistricting. The Legislature also passed a bill to remove a carve-out for Disney from the state’s 2021 law that aims to regulate social media platforms.