By Oliver Camarena
ORLANDO, FL – Florida’s full legislature Thursday approved legislation—expected to be signed by the governor—repealing a law that gave Disney the ability to govern their properties in the state.
House lawmakers passed the bill in a 68-38 vote Thursday after the Senate’s 23-16 vote on Wednesday. It takes effect in June of 2023.
The bill upends a 1967 state law, which allows Disney to self-govern by collecting taxes and providing emergency services. Disney controls about 25,000 acres in the Orlando area, and the district allows the company to build new structures and pay impact fees for such construction without the approval of a local planning commission.
Usually, with Disney’s lobbyists and large campaign donations to state politicians, they’ve been able to keep hold of their benefits in the state, said pundits. But Disney announced a pause to their campaign donations as a part of their feud with the state’s passage of the “don’t say gay” bill that prevents classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through the third grade.
The new measure to remove Disney’s district status specifically eliminates the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the area of land in which Disney has built their theme park.
With this district removed, Disney loses its ability to unilaterally develop their theme part as it wishes, as well as a change to its tax status which would have branching tax implications on the state and its residents, which bill critics may be forced to pay billions in additional taxes.
Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said that Disney “chose the wrong guy to pick a fight with.”
He further stated “As governor, 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.”
In contrast, Democrats in the state legislature have voiced opposition to the bill removing Disney’s district, citing the company’s status as a major component of the state’s economy, employing more than 60,000 workers.
State Senator Gary Farmer, a Democrat, stated, “Let’s call this what it is: it’s the punitive, petulant political payback to a corporation who dared to say the emperor has no clothes, but if they behave this next election cycle, maybe we’ll put it back together.”