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DeSantis, legislature to dissolve Disney self-governing status

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week will seek to dissolve Disney World’s special status after the company allegedly lied about a bill that protected elementary children from sexualization and transgender ideology in schools. The Governor’s move permanently ends “the corporate kingdom” and bringing it under state control.

According to DeSantis’s office, the legislation will end Disney’s self-governing status and impose a state-controlled, term-limited board appointed by the governor to run what’s now called the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

The legislation would allow the state to tax Disney for possible road projects outside the district’s boundaries. It would ensure Disney, not the taxpayers, pays $700 million in unsecured debt.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis

It would keep control of the district out of the hands of what the governor’s office called “the leftist local government in Orange County,’ which it said had threatened to leverage the situation to raise local taxes.

“It would impose state law so that Disney no longer received preferential treatment. It would prevent Disney from gaining more land by eminent domain and create an avenue to compel Disney to contribute to local infrastructure.

The Florida Legislature with then-Gov. Claude Kirk’s signature created the district in 1967, “which gifted extraordinary special privileges to a single corporation,” the governor’s office said.

“Until Gov. DeSantis acted, the Walt Disney Company maintained sole control over the district. This power amounted to an unaccountable Corporate Kingdom. Florida is dissolving the Corporate Kingdom and beginning a new era of accountability and transparency.”

READ: DeSantis encourages Christians to be bold in defending truth

The powers to be eliminated, the governor’s office said, include “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 procurement of construction contracts; operating standards that varied from Florida Statute; and exemptions from regulatory reviews and approvals that other companies must navigate.”

House Bill 9B was filed on Feb. 6.

Republicans have supermajority control of both chambers of the legislature. It provides that Reedy Creek be renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The detailed description of the property takes up nearly 80 pages of the 189-page bill.

Last year, the legislature passed a bill at the Republican DeSantis’s request to provide the Reedy Creek district end by June 1, 2023. But that bill left open questions about Disney’s bond debt of nearly a billion dollars, with the possibility that taxpayers of Osceola and Orange counties, in which the district is located, might be held liable.

DeSantis has frequently criticized Disney’s jumping into the political arena to back leftist causes. Disney is one of the largest employers in the state, and Walt Disney World is one of the world’s most popular theme park attractions.

READ: Former Disney actor outs company over abuse

Last April, DeSantis signed a bill to dissolve Reedy Creek’s special tax status weeks after the company’s CEO criticized a Florida law that barred teachers from encouraging classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3, or in a manner that is not age-appropriate.

The two-week special session, which began on Feb. 6, will also deal with giving the state the power to fly migrants to other states and giving the statewide prosecutor the power to investigate election fraud cases, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Democrats quoted by the Sentinel variously attributed the special session to DeSantis’s presidential ambitions, his upcoming book tour, and his desire to squeeze contributions out of Disney before the regular legislative session begins on March 7.

The Republican leadership “has proven to basically be his janitor and clean up whatever needs cleaning up,” state Rep. Dotie Joseph (D-Miami) was quoted in the Sentinel as saying.

“What we are seeing with most of our Republican colleagues is they don’t care about accountability and want to give the governor carte blanche to do whatever he wants to do.”

–Wire services

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