Florida House, Senate vote to strip Disney’s special governing status awarded in ’67

by WorldTribune Staff, April 21, 2022

The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation that would dissolve the agreement which grants Walt Disney World special governing powers over itself.

The Florida Senate, by a 23-16 margin, voted on Wednesday to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which in 1967 granted Disney a special taxing district that allows the company to act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government.

“What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign the legislation into law, said during a press conference last month.”I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years.”

Ending the special taxing district would, for the first time in its history in Florida, subject Disney to Osceola and Orange County planning and zoning laws, as well as building inspections.

The park also would lose its tax and fee exemption as an improvement district when it expands or builds on the property.

The legislation would put the two counties and two incorporated cities, Orlando and Kissimmee, in charge of the district’s 137 miles of roadway, a fire department and $1 billion in municipal debt held by the company.

The change would not take effect until next year, and the Legislature could vote to reconstitute the special district.

DeSantis has been engaged in a war of words with Disney after CEO Bob Chapek publicly opposed a bill which prohibits classroom instruction on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to children in third grade or younger “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

HB 1557, which opponents have disingenuously labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” Disney said. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

DeSantis said: “Look, there’s policy disputes, and that’s fine, but when you’re trying to impose a woke ideology on our state, we view that as a significant threat. This wokeness will destroy this country if we let it run unabated. So in Florida, we take a very big stand against that.”

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