Florida lawmakers created a special economic zone for Disney called the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967, reportedly saving the company tens of millions of dollars per year in taxes and fees. The bill signed by DeSantis establishes a new state-controlled administrative region called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
“Allowing a corporation to control its own government is bad policy, especially when the corporation makes decisions that impact an entire region,” DeSantis said in a statement. “This legislation ends Disney’s self-governing status, makes Disney live under the same laws as everybody else, and ensures that Disney pays its debts and fair share of taxes.”
Disney covertly acquired tens of thousands of acres in central Florida throughout the early 1960s using several shell corporations. The tract of land that would become Disney World was therefore purchased at an average cost of $180 per acre. Reedy Creek Improvement District was granted permission to levy taxes, issue bonds, and write its own construction and wastewater management laws, avoiding the regulatory headaches with which other companies throughout the state had to wrestle.
The new law also ends Disney’s exemption from the Florida Building Code and Florida Fire Prevention Code, as well as ensures that the entertainment conglomerate pays its own municipal debt. The bill passed the Florida House 82-31 and the Florida Senate 26-9; both chambers have robust Republican majorities after the party swept the state’s midterm elections.
DeSantis first moved to strip Disney of its special privileges last year after the company publicly opposed a parental rights bill that was later signed into law that prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity to children between kindergarten and third grade. In an exclusive poll from The Daily Wire, 64% of Americans, including 62% of Democrats and 57% of independents, supported the Florida law that Disney publicly opposed.
Disney CEO Bob Iger expressed regret that the company lost special regulatory and tax privileges, vowing executives would more carefully listen to consumers in the future. “I was sorry to see us dragged into that battle, and I have no idea exactly what its ramifications are in terms of the business itself,” the veteran executive said in leaked footage. “What I can say is that the state of Florida has been important to us for a long time, and we have been very important to the state of Florida.”
DeSantis, who has not officially announced a campaign for the presidency but is considered a potential contender for the GOP nomination, reacted to the leaked footage by affirming his support for the laws against radical gender theory and LGBTQ ideology. “These are parents’ rights, important policies in our state that are very popular. And so they brought this on themselves,” DeSantis said. “All we did was stand up for what’s right. And, yes, they’re a big, powerful company. But you know what? We stand up for our folks. And I don’t care what a Burbank-based California company says about our laws.”
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