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. “I just can’t do it. 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. The company issued a statement in March saying it would work to overturn the law.
At a news conference in Hialeah, DeSantis said that was a “provocation.”
“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state?” he said. “We view that as a provocation, and we were going to fight back against that.”
DeSantis has previously 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.
DeSantis briefly addressed the practical concerns, saying “we’re going to take care of all of that,” and denying that Disney would wind up getting a giant tax break.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “We have all that thought out.”
The bill passed the Legislature on Thursday, as part of a special session originally called to deal with congressional redistricting. DeSantis also signed a bill to remove a carve-out for Disney from the state’s 2021 law that aims to regulate social media platforms.