How Mighty is Mickey?

Walt Disney World is set to lose the self-governing status it has held for decades. Since 1967, Disney has the ability to collect taxes and provide emergency services on its over 25,000 acre Orlando area. It also can build new structures without the approval of a local planning commission. The bill removing Disney’s self-governing status still awaits a signature from Governor Ron DeSantis after passing the Florida Senate and the Florida House. Disney’s special district, its Reedy Creek Improvement District, will be gone after DeSantis’ signing, being effective on June 1st, 2023. Ron DeSantis is in favor of signing the bill to remove Disney’s self-governing status after Disney came out in opposition of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill signed by DeSantis in March of this year.

Why exactly is Ron DeSantis trying to remove Disney’s self-governing status? The Walt Disney Company openly criticized a new law restricting how sexual orientation and gender identity are discussed in public schools, called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by many. With this new legislation, we could see the end of the special benefits afforded to Disney since the 1960s that allowed the multi-billion dollar company to self-govern its Florida theme parks. GOP leaders, including DeSantis, say the proposal is required to push back against “woke” corporations; on the other hand, Democrats opposed the idea, warning of consequences for thousands of employees that are preparing to take on new responsibilities.

The battle between Disney and Florida is causing multiple political issues. The Don’t Say Gay bill, supported by DeSantis, was passed after Disney officials criticized legislation that he recently signed into law that would prevent classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through the third grade. According to Politico, DeSantis had stated recently that he does not “support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful.” Why should this matter to us? Well once June 1st, 2023 hits, Osceola and Orange County residents could be faced with more taxes if Disney’s self-governing status is eliminated.

In general, it’s definitely going to be interesting seeing where this battle goes. DeSantis continues to slam Disney and is campaigning off fighting against “woke executives,” and the bill removing Disney’s long held self-governing privilege still awaits signature from him.