The Florida State Legislature passed a bill by an overwhelming majority Thursday afternoon that will strip Disney of its self-governing powers and allow Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) to appoint all five leaders of Disney’s new tax district in Orlando.
The bill passed 82-31 thanks to Republicans holding a supermajority in the state House. The bill will now head to the state Senate, where Republicans also hold a supermajority, to be voted on in the next 36 hours.
DeSantis’ office said that the special tax district, which has allowed Disney to govern themselves since 1967, turned the theme park into “an unaccountable Corporate Kingdom.”
“Florida is dissolving the Corporate Kingdom and beginning a new era of accountability and transparency,” DeSantis’ office said. “These actions ensure a state-controlled district accountable to the people instead of a corporate-controlled kingdom.”
DeSantis’ office said that the legislation:
- Permanently eliminates Disney’s self-governing status.
- Imposes a state-controlled, term-limited board — with members appointed by the governor — on Disney and its property.
- Allows the state to impose taxes on Disney for possible road projects outside of the District’s boundaries.
- Ensures that Disney pays the $700+ million in unsecured debt — not Florida taxpayers.
- Provides no control of the district to the leftist local government in Orange County, which threatened to leverage the situation to raise local taxes.
- Imposes Florida law so that Disney is no longer given preferential treatment.
- Prevents Disney from gaining more land by eminent domain.
- Creates an avenue to compel Disney to contribute to local infrastructure.
DeSantis’ office also released a list of some of the powers that Disney previously had when they governed themselves:
- Full self-governing status with a Disney-selected board.
- The ability to build airports and nuclear facilities.
- Acquisition of property beyond the District’s territory by condemnation and eminent domain.
- Unilateral boundary changes.
- No-bid procurements of construction contracts.
- Operating standards that varied from Florida Statute.
- Exemptions from regulatory reviews and approvals that other companies must navigate.
DeSantis said during a press conference this week that Disney “is going to pay its fair share of taxes, and Disney is going to honor the debt.”
“And that’s exactly what this proposed piece of legislation will do,” he added. “Now, this is obviously now going to be controlled by the state of Florida, which is no longer self-governing for them. So there’s a new sheriff in town, and that’s just the way it’s gonna be.”
"Disney is no longer going to have self-government. Disney is gonna pay their fair share of taxes and honor their debts. … This is now going to be controlled by the state of Florida. There's a new sheriff in town." – Governor @RonDeSantisFL 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/53o8iP5GrJ
— DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) February 8, 2023
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