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 state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, a position DeSantis took umbrage against.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek apologized last month to employees who protested what they saw as the company’s failure to support its LGBTQ community. Disney then issued a press release stating that its “goal as a company is to have this law repealed by the legislature or struck down by the courts, and we remain committed to supporting national and state organizations working to achieve this.” .
DeSantis said Friday that he was “just not comfortable with this type of diary getting special treatment in my state,” according to The New York Times.
The Parental Rights in Education Act – its official name – prohibits educators in Florida from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity” with students in certain grades and allows parents to sue school districts if a teacher mentions the subjects.
Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature moved swiftly on the measure to end Disney’s special tax status, with the State House voting to approve Thursday 68-38, following a 23-16 vote for approve in the State Senate.
The law effectively dissolves all special tax districts in Florida created since 1968, including the Reedy Creek Improvement District that Disney has controlled for 55 years. This has given the company control over 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 rest with Orange and Osceola counties, including nearly $1 billion in long-term bond debt.
The District of Reedy Creek will cease to exist effective June 1, 2023, if the law remains in effect.
Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.