Feb 27 (Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that would take control of a special tax district around Walt Disney World, allowing Walt Disney Co ( DIS.N ) to operate with a greater degree of autonomy for half a century.
“The corporate empire is finally coming to an end,” DeSantis said during a press event at Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando.
Last year, state Republicans took aim at Disney after publicly clashing with DeSantis, who is widely considered a 2024 presidential contender, over legislation that would restrict classroom instruction on gender and sexual orientation, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” “Measurement.
In March, Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chabeck publicly voiced his dismay at the bill, which would have restricted LGBTQ discussion in schools, saying he had called DeSantis to express concern about the legislation becoming law.
In retaliation for Disney’s look at the “Don’t Say Gay” act, Florida lawmakers this month passed a bill, signed into law by DeSantis, that empowers the governor to appoint five supervisors to oversee traditional municipal services. Fire protection, public utilities, waste collection and road maintenance in the area where Disney World operates. The quasi-government entity is empowered to pay off outstanding debt, meet the cost of services and raise revenue.
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“We have a situation that is fundamentally indefensible from a policy perspective,” DeSantis said. “How do you give a theme park its own government and treat all other theme parks differently? We believe that’s not good policy.”
A spokesperson for Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Speakers at the bill-signing ceremony said one parent who criticized Disney for speaking out against the state’s education bill “picked the wrong side of the moral argument.” Another person, who identified himself as a longtime Disney theme park employee, took issue with the company’s policies regarding vaccinations.
According to the Theme Entertainment Association, Disney World is the largest employer in Central Florida with 75,000 employees and is expected to attract 36.2 million visitors in 2021.
Disney shares rose 0.4% on Monday.
Reporting by Dan Chmielewski in Los Angeles and Helen Koster in New York; Editing by Mark Porter and Nick Zieminski
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