Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that will enable the state of Florida to take control of Disney World’s special district.
The bill gives the governor the authority to appoint all five governing board members for the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a departure from the previous arrangement in which Disney was able to appoint all board members, allowing the storied entertainment company control over services and development within the special district.
“Look at your watch and you’ll know at what time the corporate kingdom finally came to an end,” the governor said at a signing ceremony.
Florida’s battle with Disney began when the company publicly denounced the Parental Rights in Education bill, which prohibited the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 public schools. Disney declared that the legislation “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.” The company went on to suspend political donations in Florida in an act of protest against the legislation.
In April, DeSantis retaliated by signing a bill that stripped Disney of its 50-year-old “independent special district” status, which had granted it the privilege of creating its own regulations, building codes, and other municipal services within the zone. The arrangement had also shielded Disney from significant tax burden.
Under the measure, the autonomous area that accommodates the famous Walt Disney World theme park could have been dissolved, but it also left open the option of maintaining the district with some changes, which is ultimately what the legislature opted to do in advancing the bill that was signed Monday.
The governor’s decision to hold Disney liable for its progressive activism sparked debate with the political Right, with free market defenders clashing with culture war hawks over whether the move was an appropriate exercise of state authority.
Last week, former vice president Mike Pence argued argued that DeSantis’s support of the law that revoked Disney’s special status was a departure from his preferred vision of limited government.
Pence, who is a potential 2024 presidential candidate, disagreed with DeSantis’s legal attacks against Disney.
“I have concerns about the follow-on. Disney stepped into the fray, they lost,” Pence said. “The idea of going after their taxing authority. That was beyond the scope of what I as a conservative, a limited government Republican, would be prepared to do.”