Disney has criticized a law supported by Ron DeSantis, governor of the US state of Florida, that limits school instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature has approved a measure to strip Walt Disney Co. of its self-governing privileges in the state, intensifying a dispute between Governor Ron DeSantis and the entertainment giant.
The legislation, which could lead to the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District created in 1967 in parts of Orange and Osceola counties to allow Disney to carry out certain municipal functions on its own, passed the House of Representatives in a 70-38 vote. It passed the Senate on Wednesday and now goes to DeSantis for his signature.
“This is political payback at stake here,” Jerry Demings, the Democratic mayor of Orange County, said Thursday before the vote, adding that Disney had a great partnership with the local community. “We are trying to understand what the legislature is really trying to do in this case, but I think they have not adequately contemplated the ramifications of what they have proposed at this time.”
The lightning legislative action could have major consequences for Disney, which has had to handle a heated dispute with DeSantis, a likely 2024 Republican presidential candidate, after the company criticized a law it backed that limits school instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation
The action raised questions from Democratic lawmakers about the need for quick action and who will be forced to pay nearly $1 billion in municipal bonds.
“This legislature has become the governor’s stooge, and I think it’s political theater at its worst,” state Sen. Lori Berman said Wednesday ahead of the Senate vote, criticizing the rushed nature of the move. the approval. “I feel like I’m living in an alternate reality.”
The legislation calls for the dissolution of six special districts in the state effective June 1, 2023, barring any other legislative action. Under current Florida statutes, the debts and assets of a dissolving special district would pass to the assuming office.
Reedy Creek said in a statement Thursday that the state of Florida had promised to abide by the terms of any agreements made with bondholders.
Republicans argued in the debate leading up to the law’s passage that they would have more than a year to address any issues that might arise. Democrats said there was no guarantee further action would be taken.
Richard Foglesong, a historian and political scientist who wrote a book on Disney’s history in Florida, said that Disney now had to navigate a very complex balancing act, with “something to lose on both sides.”
“I hope they stand up for themselves without being overtly partisan,” he said in an interview when asked how he thought Disney would respond. “And I think it’s advisable that they do.”
–With the assistance of Danielle Moran.