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Florida Gov Ron DeSantis escalates fight with Disney with the aim to end their self-government. 

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When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the controversial HB 1557, he set up a sociopolitical showdown between the state and one of its economic powerhouses: Walt Disney World.

In response to the famously liberal company’s outspoken criticism of what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay bill,” DeSantis and the state government are taking steps to redistrict Florida. This includes dissolving special districts that were enacted in the state before 1968. A legislative session began on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in which the “Independent Special Districts” bill, formally known as HB 3C and SB 4-C, quickly passed through the Florida House and Senate.

Walt Disney World is quite literally a world unto itself. It lies in the Reedy Creek Improvement District created by the Florida legislature in 1967. According to USA Today, this area covers two counties and 25,000 acres. Disney has autonomy over what happens on their property, such as levying taxes and controlling municipalities such as roads, water systems, and electric grids over 38.5 square miles. This is in addition to four theme parks, two water parks, hundreds of restaurants and retail shops, and over 40,000 hotel/motel rooms.

According to Republican Rep Spencer Roach, Disney’s ideology makes it fitting “they should be regulated by Orange County” rather than continue to operate as an autonomous entity. Another conservative, Rep Jackie Toledo, lamented that Disney was once “a great partner with the state of Florida,” but the relationship had crumbled, and the entertainment powerhouse had betrayed the state by turning into a “woke mob of liberal extremists.” 

The bill calls for all special districts created before November 5, 1968, to be nullified by June 1, 2023. Districts reauthorized after 1968 are exempt from this proposal. Disney’s Reedy Creek District is not exempt from this specified timeline. 

In the United States, punishing a company for criticizing government policy is an exception rather than the norm. Democratic Florida Rep Dotie Joseph compared the activity to what is seen in “countries like Russia and China.” Other concerns voiced are the lack of vetting in the legislation and the unintended consequences they could result in. This includes a direct impact on Disney’s workforce, consisting of more than 77,000 employees. Its iconic resort hosts 58 million tourists a year. Walt Disney officials have not issued a public response to the lawmakers’ actions.

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