Florida legislature passes, DeSantis signs bill eliminating Disney’s special status

In a move that left Democrats reeling, the Florida House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill designed to eliminate the special self-governing status Walt Disney World has held in the state for decades, as Fox News reports.

The 68-38 vote came on the heels of the state Senate’s passage of the same measure a day prior, and it represented a major win for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who urged legislators to support the bill in the special session that was held over the course of the week.

At issue was the special status, referred to as the Reedy Creek Improvement Act, something which came into being for Disney back in 1967, when the company unveiled plans to build a massive development on 25,000 acres in what was largely undeveloped land in Orange and Osceola counties.

Because those areas lacked the infrastructure and resources necessary to facilitate the project, the Florida legislature at the time helped Disney by creating a special taxing district permitting the company to essentially function with similar powers to those held by a county government.

The bill passed by the state House and Senate vowed to bring that status to an end on June 1, 2023, an outcome that would bring about massive tax, planning, and other consequences for the company.

Speaking last month about his desire to see the legislation passed, DeSantis pointed to Disney’s outspoken opposition to the state’s new parental rights in education law, erroneously described by the left as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, noting, “What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power.”

Going even further was DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw, who argued, “[i]t was unfortunate that Disney decided to wade into a political debate and attempt to overturn a common-sense law, enacted by a duly enacted legislature and signed by a duly elected governor, with the support of the vast majority of Floridians,” referring to legislation prohibiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in K-3 public school classrooms.

As Fox News reported separately, DeSantis on Friday took the last step necessary to strip Disney of its special status by signing the bill into law at a ceremony that took place in Hialeah Gardens, as the Wall Street Journal noted.

Taking the sort of strong, conservative stand which has propelled him in to the national spotlight as a possible contender for the GOP presidential nomination, DeSantis stated regarding Disney, “You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state? We view that as a provocation and we’re going to fight back against that.”