Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state lawmakers have revoked a 55-year-old scheme that gave Disney a special tax status and allowed it to essentially manage its 25,000-acre Disney World complex itself. The loss of this designation is the latest development in an ongoing battle between Mr. DeSantis and the state’s largest private employer on a recently passed education law. How did the gap get to that point? Here’s a little background.
What is Mr. DeSantis and Disney about?
In March, the governor signed a bill banning classroom instruction and discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in certain elementary school classes.
The “Parental Rights in Education” Act, often referred to by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has led to debate around the nation about the impact the law and others like it could have on school children. Florida law may also change the way counseling and other mental health services work in schools.
The legislation has been heralded by conservatives and despised by LGBTQ activists and many schoolteachers. Although Disney was initially silent, he joined the debate when its CEO, Bob Chapek, made several comments criticizing the bill.
Republican lawmakers in the state, including Mr. DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, was not happy with Disney’s response. “If Disney wants to pick a match, they chose the wrong guy,” wrote Mr. DeSantis in a fundraising email for followers.
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What do the Conservatives say about Disney?
In response to Disney’s condemnation of education laws, Mr. DeSantis and Fox News hosts to condemn what they call “Woke Disney” policies.
It was not the first time the company had been accused of taking positions that the Conservatives thought went too far. Within the last few years, Disney has made several changes to its theme parks and streaming services, which have received their criticism.
This includes a “reorganization” of Splash Mountain to remove its connection to the inspiration of the trip, the 1946 film “Song of the South” in which a former slave tells African folk tales. Disney’s streaming service also pulled the film from its collection.
Disney World also renewed its Pirates of the Caribbean tour by removing a scene depicting pirates selling women at an auction. Disney has also recently removed the “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls” greeting from some of its fireworks shows to be more inclusive.
The dispute between Disney’s and Florida’s lawmakers is a sign of increasing pressure on companies to get involved in party attacks.
What did Disney’s previous special tax status mean?
Disney Worlds previously had special status, which began in 1967, allowing the mega-resort to essentially function as its own municipal government. Although the amusement park is sandwiched between two counties, it served as a special zone – known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Such a designation meant that the amusement park could make its own decisions about the planning and permitting process for construction on its property, collect taxes to pay for its own fire and medical services and even produce some of its own electricity. Through that status, the company saved millions of dollars annually in fees and taxes, according to experts.
Disney took advantage of this designation to expand its resort, which today includes several theme parks, hotels and a massive bus fleet.
With its special status revoked, the resort, which employs about 80,000 people, must now negotiate with the governments of Orange and Osceola counties to use its services. The change could also leave its residents with higher taxes, with some experts estimating an increase of up to 20 percent.
How has Disney reacted to losing its autonomous privileges?
So far, Disney has not responded to the loss of its special designation.
But several executives from other states have responded to the news and have invited the company to move Disney World there instead.
Governor Jared Polis of Colorado said lawmakers in his state “Do not interfere in the affairs of companies.” A county judge in Fort Bend County, Texas, Told you Disney could “visit Fort Bend County as your next destination while facing attacks from modern political extremists” as Florida’s governor.
What Disney will do is not clear. It could apply to re-establish the special designation. The company could also instead reduce its future investment in the resort’s expansion.