DeSantis Company Takes Over Disney District, Punished

Tallahassee, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Monday that would give him control of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district, punishing the company for violating the “Don’t Say Gay” law. .

The bill calls for DeSantis, a Republican, to appoint a five-member committee to oversee government services provided by the Disney district at its sprawling theme park properties in Florida.

“Today the corporate empire finally comes to an end,” he said at a bill-signing ceremony in Lake Buena Vista. “There’s a new sheriff in town and accountability will be the order of the day.”

The signing comes as DeSantis prepares for an expected presidential run And marks a high-profile legislative victory that pushed the governor to the forefront of national Republican politics, bridging cultural and political divides.

The takeover of the Disney district began last year as the entertainment giant faced intense pressure“Don’t say gay,” he protested publicly It prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and subjects deemed not age-appropriate.

DeSantis moved quickly to punish the company, leading lawmakers in the GOP-dominated Legislature to dissolve Disney’s self-governing district. During a special legislative session, the closely watched reorganization process began. DeSantis and other Republican critics of Disney lambasted the company for coming out against the education law, calling it the patron of a “woke” ideology that injects inappropriate material into children’s entertainment.

This month, the governor called lawmakers back to the Capitol for another special session to finalize state control of the district, as well as to approve legislation related to his other top legislative priorities on immigration and voter fraud.

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In taking on Disney, DeSantis has built a reputation as a culture warrior, willing to take on political opponents and use the power of state government to accomplish political goals, which is expected to continue ahead of his potential White House run.

The feud reinforced the governor’s bold leadership style, punishing the company’s position on legislative policy as a major employer, tour operator and political donor.

DeSantis, whose book “The Courage to Be Free” is due out Tuesday, has expanded his political network in recent weeks through fundraising and meetings with donors, elected officials and conservative influencers. .

The coming months will be crucial for DeSantis as he builds his profile beyond Florida. He is expected to use the regular legislative session starting next week to bolster his conservative agenda before announcing his candidacy for president.

The new law changes the district’s name from the Reedy Creek Improvement District to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and subjects it to different layers of state oversight. The board members were named by companies previously controlled by Disney.

This leaves the county and its financial capabilities and debt obligations intact, addressing a major concern of surrounding governments. It also bars anyone who has worked or contracted with the theme park in the past three years from serving on the district’s new governing board.

At his news conference, DeSantis said he would appoint Tampa attorney Martin Garcia as chairman of the district’s new board of directors, along with new board members Bridget Ziegler, a conservative school board member and wife of Florida Republican Party Chairman Christian Ziegler; Brian Angst Jr., a lawyer and son of Clearwater’s former Republican mayor; Mike Sasso, a lawyer; and Ron Perry, president of The Gathering USA Ministry.

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Having a separate government allows the county to issue bonds and provide zoning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure services on its land. Republican critics of the district argue that it gives Disney a commercial advantage that others don’t have.

Disney did not immediately return an email request for comment.

The creation of the self-governing district was instrumental in Disney’s decision to build near Orlando in the 1960s. The company told the state that it plans to create a futuristic city that includes transportation system and urban planning innovations, so the company needs autonomy in deciding how to develop and use the land. Future City never materialized, instead becoming a second theme park that opened in 1982.

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