In a move being labeled widely as sheer retaliation, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is making the way for the “termination” of the self-governing privileges that Disney World has held in his state for more than half a century.
DeSantis is retaliating after Disney paused its political donations in Florida and condemned the state’s new education “Don’t Say Gay” law. Disney is the largest private employer in Florida.
Yesterday, DeSantis asked state lawmakers to consider terminating the company’s special district. The Florida Legislature had already been scheduled to convene for a special session on congressional redistricting this week, and yesterday, the Republican governor issued a proclamation that allows the body to take up bills that would eliminate special tax districts.
The special tax districts were established in Florida before 1968. There are hundreds of these districts in the state that have been set up after 1968, but Disney’s was established before that in 1967. For the past 55 years, Disney World — employer of about 80,000 people — has been allowed to function as its own municipal government.
Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District gives the company considerable control over planning and permitting processes for construction, and also levies taxes on Disney to pay for the fire and medical response units, and other services. Some of its own electricity is even generated through its district.
Disney and DeSantis began to publicly spar in March after Disney condemned the Don’t Say Gay bill, known officially as the Parents Rights in Education law, which, among many other things, massively restricts discussions about gender and sexual orientation in Florida schools.
DeSantis signed the legislation into law, and after employee and public pressure to comment on the bill, Disney spoke up, saying that the goal as a company is for the law to be repealed or struck down in the courts.