Gov. DeSantis Escalates Disney Fight With Move to End Self-Governing District

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raised the stakes in his fight with Disney on Tuesday, announcing that he would call on the Legislature to terminate the company’s self-governing district in Orlando.

DeSantis has been fighting with Disney over the company’s opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which forbids classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade. DeSantis warned last month that Disney had “crossed the line” by saying it would work to overturn the law.

The Florida Legislature has concluded its regular session for the year, but is meeting this week in a special session to address a Congressional redistricting map. In a proclamation on Tuesday, DeSantis amended the special session to allow the Legislature to take action against Disney.

“They also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior 1968,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Tuesday morning. “That includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”

The Legislature created the Reedy Creek district in 1967, allowing Disney to control zoning and public services over a 40-square-mile area encompassing the Walt Disney World Resort and the company’s other Orlando theme parks. The district is home to 53 people — all Disney employees and their families.

DeSantis has argued that Disney should not get “special privileges” from the state Legislature.

In addition to Reedy Creek, he has noted that Disney got a last-minute carve-out from the state’s social media “censorship” law last year. The law seeks to regulate social media platforms, but excludes any company that owns a theme park — which was intended to exempt Disney+ from the regulation. The law has been on hold due to a federal court challenge.

DeSantis’ proclamation would also allow the Legislature to revisit that bill to eliminate the Disney carve-out.

Ending the Reedy Creek district would be a complex undertaking, as Osceola and Orange counties would have to assume responsibility for public services in the area. A bill to eliminate the district could well end up in court.

The special session is set to expire on Friday.

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