Florida Governor Signs Historic Bill to Strip Disney of Self-Governing Status

On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an unprecedented bill that ends Disney’s self-governing status under the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID).[0] The bill will rename and reorganize the district, taking away some of the powers that Disney had, such as the ability to build an airport, claim eminent-domain property, or exempt its developments from certain zoning and fire codes.[1]

The fight between DeSantis and Disney began last year when Disney’s CEO at the time, Bob Chapek, criticized the state’s Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as the Don’t Say Gay bill, which limits the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.[2] Rather than utilizing the power of the state to simply punish Disney and its former CEO for exercising their right to free expression, DeSantis has reframed his actions as a way to stop the influx of immorality in popular culture.[3]

The bill DeSantis signed took down “an indefensible example of corporate welfare,” DeSantis wrote.[4] The legislation put an end to special treatment given to certain corporations due to their political influence, challenged traditional corporate Republicanism that gave advantages to already established businesses rather than the public, and will ensure that Disney must adhere to the same laws as all other businesses in the state.[4]

The establishment of a new district with a board of directors appointed by Governor DeSantis will require Disney to be subject to more stringent oversight when constructing, running, and managing both their corporate offices and theme parks.[1] One of these appointees, Ron Peri, is a former pastor from Orlando who once said that the number of LGBTQ individuals was increasing because of high estrogen levels in tap water.[5] Disney did not respond to requests for comment.[6]

DeSantis declared that when one gets lost, they must have people who will be honest with them.[7] We are hopeful that they can resume operations. The board members would prefer to provide entertainment that all families can enjoy.[7]

Overall, this is a major shift in power away from Disney and towards the state government in Florida.

0. “Florida governor ends ‘corporate kingdom’ of Walt Disney World” Al Jazeera English, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2023/2/27/florida-gov-ends-corporate-kingdom-of-walt-disney-world

1. “Everything We Know About Ron DeSantis’s Disney Takeover” Curbed, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.curbed.com/2023/03/ron-desantis-disney-takeover-reedy-creek.html

2. “Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill to rename, reorganize Disney’s Reedy Creek district” FOX 35 Orlando, 27 Feb. 2023, https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/gov-ron-desantis-disney-reedy-creek-update

3. “Gov. DeSantis gets conservatives to cheer for state intrusion in private business | Column” Tampa Bay Times, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/2023/03/03/gov-desantis-gets-conservatives-cheer-state-intrusion-private-business-column/

4. “Can We Stop Pretending Ron DeSantis Is for Free Markets?” The Daily Beast, 4 Mar. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/can-we-stop-pretending-ron-desantis-is-for-free-markets

5. “DeSantis Disney Appointee Said Tap Water Might Be Turning People Gay” Rolling Stone, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/desantis-disney-appointee-tap-water-turning-people-gay-1234690629

6. “DeSantis Disney oversight board features ‘combustible mix’ of culture warriors: Expert” Yahoo News, 1 Mar. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/desantis-disney-oversight-board-features-combustible-mix-of-culture-warriors-expert-205909720.html

7. “DeSantis raises prospect of political interference with Disney content” MSNBC, 28 Feb. 2023, https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/maddowblog/desantis-raises-prospect-political-interference-disney-content-rcna72716

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