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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law on Monday a bill to stop Disney’s Orlando parks from having self-governance, a move taken after the entertainment giant came out against his policies to protect children in schools from gender ideology.
“The corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis noted, punning on Disney’s “fantasy kingdom” during the bill-signing event at the Lake Buena Vista Firehouse in the heart of the special district.
Last February 10, the Florida Congress, whose two chambers are dominated by Republicans, approved the DeSantis bill for the state to take over the so-called Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has been operating autonomously for more than half a century.
“This legislation ends Disney’s self-governance status, makes Disney live under the same laws as everyone else, and ensures Disney pays its debts and a fair share of taxes,” a statement from the Florida governor’s office said.
The special district is now in the hands of a board of five supervisors picked by DeSantis himself, who clashed with the entertainment giant over a state law on gender identity and gender in schools.
Among other things, this law prohibits teachers from talking to younger students about sexual orientation and gender identity and establishes fines for offending schools.
Under the new law, the district, for the first time, will have to report its budget and finances to the state and will face restrictions on building airports, stadiums and civic centers.
In addition, it will not be able to expand without state approval and no public money will be allocated for attraction advertising.
However, the district will retain power over planning, zoning, building and safety codes, and current tax exemption status for property and bonds.
Since 1967, the so-called “happiest place on Earth” has had the status of a special district, a self-government that allowed it to grow to have half a dozen theme parks, a sports center, a huge shopping mall, 25 hotels, its own police and fire department and nearly 80,000 employees.
All in an area of 27,000 acres located in Osceola and Orange counties, in the center of the state.
Desantis spoke Monday of his “fight” with Disney on signing the bill into law.
“We had a bit of a fight last year over school legislation,” DeSantis said, referring to Disney as “a California company” that enjoyed some “privileges” that no one else had in Florida.
“If you go down that path as a corporation, those are not the values we want to promote in the state of Florida,” said DeSantis, who was re-elected in 2022 for four more years with a large majority of votes and may be a presidential candidate in 2024.
DeSantis emphasized that there will be no additional tax burden on taxpayers as a result of this change.
The new Board of Supervisors will be composed of Martin Garcia, Bridget Zeigler, Brian Aungst, Mike Sasso and Ron Peri.