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Florida Republicans Target Disney for Opposition to New Law

Florida governor and GOP-led legislature retaliate against Disney by eliminating special tax district.
Florida Republicans Target Disney for Opposition to New Law

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently called on Republican lawmakers to consider a bill that would "eliminate a special tax district that allows the Walt Disney Co. to govern the land where its theme parks sit." The lawmakers targeted the company for publicly "opposing legislation that restricted classroom instruction on gender and sexuality," according to The Wall Street Journal.

The controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill by its critics, was signed into law at the end of March, causing a wave of protests across the state. Disney’s public opposition to the law followed an employee walkout in protest of CEO Bob Chapek's soft stance on the bill as it made its way through the Florida legislature.

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After the governor signed the bill into law, the Walt Disney Company issued a statement vowing to help repeal the controversial legislation, setting off a war of words between Republicans and the Disney company. The statement read, in part, "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that."

Read more:

Disney Becomes Battleground in Debate Over LGBTQ Instruction
The war of words between Republicans and the Walt Disney Company escalates as HB 1557 is signed by Florida Governor DeSantis.

On Wednesday, the Florida Senate passed the bill in a special session convened by the governor, and the GOP-led House will likely vote to approve the measure Thursday. DeSantis "has made clear he would sign it."

Florida Senate Passes Bill to Eliminate Disney’s Special Tax District (Robbie Whelan & Arian Compos-Flores - The Wall Street Journal)

Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: Losing the nearly 40-square-mile district near Orlando could be a major blow to Disney’s Florida operations. The special district, created in 1967 and known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, exempts Disney from a host of regulations and certain taxes and fees. It has allowed the entertainment company to manage its theme parks and resorts in the state with little red tape for more than 50 years [and] saves Disney tens of millions of dollars a year.
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According to The Washington Post, "local officials in Central Florida sounded the alarm, warning the repeal could leave them with a burdensome tax bill," as Disney is currently responsible for "road maintenance, building inspections, 911 emergency calls and sewage treatment at the theme park, which straddles two counties."

However, in a fundraising email, Governor DeSantis praised the effort by writing, “I was elected to put the people of Florida first, and I will not allow a woke corporation based in California to run our state.”

Florida GOP Senate advances bill to revoke Disney’s special tax status (Lori Rozsa - The Washington Post)

Excerpt from The Washington Post: The unraveling of Reedy Creek would not begin until June 2023. “This leaves the sword of Damocles over Disney’s head for 13 months. It shuts them up,” Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R) said. “Nobody actually thinks this is going to happen. The cost to the state would be astronomical, potentially billions of dollars.” Brandes was the lone Republican to vote against the bill, joining every Democrat in the Senate. He said DeSantis, who is up for reelection this year and is a potential presidential candidate in 2024, is relishing the feud.

UPDATE: The GOP-led Florida House passed the tax district bill 70-38 on Thursday, a day after the Senate approved it 23-16, and the measure was signed into law by the governor late Friday.

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