In a move widely seen as retaliation, Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday asked Florida lawmakers to consider “ending” self-governing privileges Disney World has had in the Orlando area for 55 years. He acted after Disney, the state’s largest private employer, halted political donations in Florida and condemned a new state education law that opponents are calling “Don’t Say Gay.”
The Florida legislature is set to meet this week for a special session on congressional realignment. On Tuesday, Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, issued a proclamation allowing the Republican-controlled body to also incorporate bills that would eliminate special tax districts created before 1968.
Florida has hundreds of such districts, but nearly all of them were established after that date — with one of the exceptions being Disney World. Founded in 1967, it essentially allows the mega-resort, which employs approximately 80,000 people, to function as its own municipal administration.
Disney’s special zone is called the Reedy Creek Improvement District and gives the company significant control over the planning and permitting process for the construction of its 25,000-acre site, including road construction. Reedy Creek also taxes Disney to pay for the resort’s own fire and medical aid battalions, among other things. Disney World even generates some of its own electricity through Reedy Creek.
DeSantis and Disney began sparring publicly last month after the company condemned the parental rights law in education, which, among other things, curtails discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms.
“Our goal as a company is to have this law repealed by the legislature or overturned by the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the state and state organizations working to achieve that,” Disney said on March 28, when the Mr. DeSantis signed the bill into law. (Disney had initially tried not to side with the measure, at least not publicly, sparking an employee rebellion.)
In response, Mr. DeSantis targeted Disney, berating it as “awake” and sending a fundraising email to supporters who said it had “lost any moral authority to tell you what to do”. A few Florida lawmakers then began threatening to repeal Disney World’s special tax district.
Disney declined to comment on Tuesday’s development.