Florida Senate passes bill that would strip Disney of its self-rule status

A December 2020 view of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

(The Center Square) – The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would strip Walt Disney Company of its self-governing status in the state.

The Senate voted 23-16 to amend a state statute creating a special district for Disney’s property near Orlando that allowed the company to act as a self-governing authority like a county government. The measure would terminate all special governing districts created before the Florida Constitution was ratified in 1968.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis supports the proposed legislation, which now moves to the state House.

The 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act established the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which created an independent governing entity controlled by the Walt Disney Company. As a result, “Disney is in control of everything from construction zoning, building codes and fire department services to controlling its own electricity, roads and water,” a Forbes analysis explains.

Disney’s special governing status came into question after it publicly opposed the Parental Rights in Education law, which bans Florida schools and teachers from discussing “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” with students in kindergarten through third grade classes.

Numerous media outlets and opponents of the law claim it’s “anti-gay,” or uses the phrase, “Don’t say gay,” arguing it’s anti-LGBTQ. A review of the seven-page bill by The Center Square revealed no such language exists, including no mention of the word “gay.”

Disney issued a statement supporting the LGBTQ community, adding its “goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”

At a news conference March 31, DeSantis said repealing the 1967 law wouldn’t be in retaliation to Disney’s opposition to the parental rights law, ClickOrlando.com reported.

“I would not say that that’d be retaliatory,” DeSantis said. “I mean, the way I view it is, you know, there are certain entities that have exerted a lot of influence through corporate means to generate special privileges in the law. I don’t think we should have special privileges in the law at all.”

Disney has not commented on the proposed legislation.

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