West News Wire: A bill that seizes control of a special tax district surrounding Walt Disney World, which has given Walt Disney Co. a great deal of autonomy for the past 50 years, has been signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis declared, “The corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” on Monday at a press conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, not far from Orlando.
State Republicans last year targeted Disney after it publicly argued with DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for president of the United States in 2024, over a law that limits the teaching of gender and sexual orientation in the classroom. Its opponents refer to this restriction as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
In March, Disney’s then-Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek publicly voiced disappointment with the bill limiting LGBTQ discussion in schools, saying he called DeSantis to express concern about the legislation becoming law.
In a move political observers viewed as retaliation for Disney’s view on the “Don’t Say Gay” measure, Florida lawmakers this month passed a bill that DeSantis signed into law and that authorises the governor to appoint five supervisors to oversee traditional municipal services, such as fire protection, public utilities, waste collection and road maintenance, in the region where Disney World operates. The quasi-government entity also has the authority to raise revenue to pay outstanding debt and cover the cost of services.
“Allowing a corporation to control its own government is bad policy, especially when the corporation makes decisions that impact an entire region,” said DeSantis. “This legislation ends Disney’s self-governing status, makes Disney live under the same laws as everybody else, and ensures that Disney pays its debts and fair share of taxes.”
A spokesperson for Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from reporters.
Speakers at the bill-signing ceremony included a parent who had criticised Disney for speaking out against the state’s education bill, saying the company “chose the wrong side of the moral argument”. Another person who identified himself as a longtime Disney theme park employee had taken issue with the company’s policies regarding vaccinations.
Disney World is the largest employer in central Florida, with close to 75,000 employees. It drew 36.2 million visitors in 2021, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.
Disney shares were up 0.4 percent on Monday.