Tuesday, February 28, 2023

DeSantis takes control of the Disney district and penalises the firm

Florida governor DeSantis takes over Disney district, punishing company


TALLAHASSEE: As punishment for Walt Disney World's opposition to the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that gives him control of Walt Disney World's self-governing district.

The bill mandates that DeSantis, a Republican, appoint a five-member board to oversee the Disney district's expansive Florida theme park properties' government services.

During a ceremony to sign a bill in Lake Buena Vista, he stated, "Today the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end." Accountability is going to be the rule now that a new sheriff has arrived in the area."

The signing occurred at a time when DeSantis was getting ready to run for president, and it marked a high-profile legislative victory for a governor whose ability to exploit cultural and political divides has propelled him to the forefront of Republican politics on a national scale.

Last year, under intense pressure, the entertainment giant publicly opposed "Don't Say Gay," which prohibits age-appropriate lessons and instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

DeSantis acted swiftly to punish the company by ordering lawmakers in the GOP-dominated Legislature to dissolve Disney's self-governing district during a special session, kicking off a process of reorganization that would be closely watched. DeSantis and other Republican critics of Disney criticized the company for opposing the education law, describing it as a purveyor of "woke" ideology that inserts inappropriate topics into children's entertainment.

This month, the governor urged legislators to convene a second special session at the Capitol to finalize the state's control over the district and to pass legislation addressing some of his other top legislative priorities, including immigration and voter fraud.

DeSantis furthered his reputation as a culture warrior who is willing to fight alleged political foes and use state government power to achieve political objectives by taking on Disney. This strategy is expected to continue ahead of his potential White House run.

The conflict, which resulted in a penalty for a significant employer, driver of tourism, and political donor in the state due to the company's position on a piece of legislative policy, also reinforced the governor's bold, go-it-alone leadership style.

In recent weeks, DeSantis has moved to expand his political network through fundraisers and meetings with donors, elected officials, and conservative influencers, adding to speculation regarding his larger political ambitions. His book, "The Courage to be Free," will be released on Tuesday.

As DeSantis expands his profile beyond Florida, the months to come will be crucial. Before announcing his candidacy for president, it is anticipated that he will use the regular legislative session that begins next week to advance his conservative agenda.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District is now known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District under the new law, and it is subject to various levels of state oversight. In the past, Disney-controlled entities selected board members.

Addressing a major concern of the governments surrounding it, it preserves the district's financial capabilities as well as its debt. Additionally, it prohibits individuals from serving on the district's new governing board who have contracted with or worked for a theme park in the previous three years.

The district can issue bonds and provide zoning, fire protection, utilities, and infrastructure services on its land because it has its own government. The district, according to Republican critics, grants Disney an exclusive commercial advantage.

An email request for comment was not immediately responded to by Disney.

Disney's decision to build near Orlando in the 1960s was influenced in part by the establishment of the self-governing district. The company had informed the state that it planned to construct a futuristic city with innovative transit and urban planning features. As a result, the company required autonomy in building and utilizing the land. A second theme park opened in 1982 instead of the futuristic city that never materialized.

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