(NewsNation) — Florida lawmakers Thursday gave final passage to a bill that would strip Walt Disney World of its self-government power, handing Gov. Ron DeSantis a win in his feud with the entertainment giant.
This is the latest move in DeSantis’s fight with Disney following its opposition to what critics call Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which limits how Florida educators can discuss gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade. In March, Disney said it would suspend political donations in the state and support organizations working to oppose the new law.
DeSantis convened a special legislative session to terminate “all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968” which includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special taxing district that allows Walt Disney World to oversee its property as a quasi-governmental agency. The measure does allow for the districts to be reestablished, leaving an avenue to renegotiate its future.
The Florida Senate passed the bill Wednesday, and it was approved by the House Thursday. The bill now moves to DeSantis’ office to be signed into law. The move could have huge tax implications for Disney, whose series of theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
Democrats have criticized the proposal as clear retaliation against the company and warned that local homeowners could get hit with big tax bills if they have to absorb bond debt from Disney — although such details are far from clear.
Disney is one of Florida’s biggest private employers, reporting last year that it had more than 60,000 workers in the state. It is not immediately clear how the company or local governments around its properties would be affected if the district was dissolved.
The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and the control it gave Disney over 27,000 acres in Florida, was a crucial element in the company’s plans to build near Orlando in the 1960s.
Company officials said they needed autonomy to plan a futuristic city along with the theme park. The city never materialized, however; instead, it morphed into the Epcot theme park.
The Hill and the Associated Press contributed to this report.