TALLAHASSEE, Fla. ( Associated Press) – The Florida Legislature has passed a bill to dissolve a private government controlled by Disney which provides municipal services for its 27,000 acres (about 11,000 ha) in the Sunshine State.
The proposal, pushed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, has been largely seen as a retaliation for Disney’s criticism of a new state law that critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay”. which precludes instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
The entertainment giant has not publicly commented on the proposal to dissolve its government, which has been in place for 55 years.
What does Bill do?
The bill passed by the legislature on Thursday would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the Disney government is known, as well as some other similar districts by June 2023.
The measure allows districts to be renegotiated, leaving an opportunity for Disney and lawmakers to renegotiate their deal between now and June 2023.
“By doing it early, we have until next June or July, so we’re really giving ourselves more time to be thoughtful,” Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson said. “I don’t know how the end will come, but I know it’s a very worthwhile process that we’re going through and I think whatever comes out of it will be better than what we have today.”
what happens next?
The Bill now awaits the requisite signature of the Governor.
Although the details are unclear, the proposal could have huge tax implications for Disney. Democratic state lawmakers opposing the bill also warned that it could result in large tax bills for homeowners if they have to absorb the costs paid by the company.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, whose county is partly home to Disney World, said it would be “catastrophic for our budget” if the county had to assume the costs for public safety at a theme park resort. Reedy Creek currently reimburses the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for public safety costs.
“If that district goes away, and they no longer pay those public safety costs, and then it has to fall into other county budgets, that’s a net loss for the rest of Orange County taxpayers,” Demings said. he said.
Why does Disney have its own government in Florida?
The company sold the idea to Florida lawmakers. As part of his plans to build an elaborate East Coast theme park in 1967 that would include a futuristic city.
The city never materialized, but Walt Disney World nevertheless became an entertainment juggernaut in Orlando, while still retaining government powers that allowed it to decide what and how to build and issue bonds. and to provide services such as zoning, fire protection and utilities.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the Disney government is known, is mandated to build its own roads, run its own wastewater treatment plant, operate its own fire department, set its own building codes, and protect Permission has been granted to inspect Disney buildings.
In the current budget year, the district had $169 million in revenue and $178 million in expenditure.
Disney is a major political player In Florida, as well as the rest of the country. The Walt Disney Company and its affiliates contributed more than $20 million in political contributions to both Republicans and Democrats in the 2020 campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, for which data is available, which tracks such spending. does.
That same year, Disney-related entities funneled $10.5 million to the America First Action Committee, which supports Republican former President Donald Trump. Disney also contributed $1.2 million to support President Joe Biden’s campaign.
In response to gender directive law, Disney announces it is suspending political donations Will support organizations in the state and those opposing it.
Why destroy the government now?
DeSantis has launched a raid against Disney following the company’s public opposition to the gender directive law.
This week, as lawmakers were returning to the Capitol for a special legislative session focused on the redistribution of Congress, DeSantis issued a proclamation allowing her to also adopt legislation that would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
For the governor, the attack on Disney is his latest defense in a culture war waged over race, gender and coronavirus policies, The battles have made him one of the most popular GOP politicians in the country and a potential 2024 presidential candidate.
“If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy,” the governor wrote in a fundraising email. “As governor, I was elected to put the people of Florida first, and I would not allow a California-based awakening corporation to run my state.”
Republican Representative Randy Fine, sponsor of the bill to scrap the district, said it was time for a change.
“You kick the hornet’s nest, things unfold. And I will say this: You caught me on one thing – this bill targets one company. It targets the Walt Disney Company,” Fine said . “You want to know why? Because they are the only company in the state that has ever been given the right to rule itself. ,