Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a bill stripping the Walt Disney Company of its special tax status in the Orlando area. The move is widely seen as retaliation against Disney for its criticism of the the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, a position DeSantis resented.
CEO of Disney Bob Chapek apologized last month to employees who protested what they saw as the company’s failure to support its LGBTQ community. Disney later issued Press release which said that their “goal as a company is to have this law struck down by the legislature or struck down in court, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve this.”
DeSantis said Friday that he “just wasn’t comfortable with that kind of schedule getting special treatment in my state.” according The New York Times.
The Parents’ Rights in Education Act, its official name, prohibits Florida educators from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity” with students in certain grades and allows parents to sue school districts if a teacher mentions the topics.
The Republican-controlled Florida legislature took swift action on the measure to end Disney’s special tax status, with the House of Representatives voting to approve thursday 68-38, after a 23-16 vote to approve in the state Senate.
The law effectively dissolves any special taxing district in Florida created since 1968, including the Reedy Creek Improvement District that Disney has controlled for 55 years. It allowed the company to control decisions about its real estate in the area, which includes four theme parks, two water parks, shops and restaurants, a sports complex and hotels. Responsibility for Reedy Creek will now likely belong to Orange and Osceola counties, including nearly $1 billion in long-term bond debt.
The Reedy Creek district will cease to exist as of June 1, 2023, if the law remains in effect.
Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.