State Watch

Florida lawmakers consider move to reverse stripping Disney of self-governing status: report

Florida lawmakers are reportedly working on a legal move that would halt the decision to strip Walt Disney World of its unique self-governing status, first made in the aftermath of the mass media company’s pushback against the state’s recent gender and sexuality laws.

State law dating back to 1967 currently exempts Disney from normal taxes around water, power, roads and other services, allowing the company instead to tax itself for funding of these resources.

However, the Florida House voted in April to dissolve that tax-exempt status over the company’s opposition to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) law banning educators from discussing gender and sexuality with students in kindergarten to third grade, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics.

The Parental Rights in Education bill was signed into law by the governor in March, allowing the Florida government to determine what type of instruction around sexual orientation and gender identity is “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

Now lawmakers are drafting a legal compromise between Disney and the government, Financial Times reports, motivated in part by last month’s switch in the company’s leadership.

Former long-term CEO of Disney Bob Iger returned to replace his successor Bob Chapek on Nov. 20 after the latter was fired by the company board.

Chapek and DeSantis went head-to-head over the education bill before it was signed into law, but the return of Iger seems to be quelling some of that tension.

“Chapek screwed up, but Bob Iger doesn’t have to own that screw-up,” Florida Rep. Randy Fine (R), author of April’s law ending Disney’s autonomous leadership of its Reedy Creek property, told the Times.

“It’s easier to shift policy when you don’t have to defend the old policy,” he added.

Iger, who has spoken out against the Parental Rights in Education law in the past, avoided discussing politics during an address to employees on Monday.

“The state of Florida has been important to us for a long time and we have been very important to the state of Florida,” said Iger at the town hall meeting when the topic was broached, according to the Times.

“That is something I’m extremely mindful of and will articulate if I get the chance.”

DeSantis’s office told The Hill, however, that he stands by his opposition to the special relationship between Disney and Florida.

“Governor DeSantis does not make ‘U-turns,'” press secretary Bryan Griffin said.

“The governor was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to one company through the Reedy Creek Improvement District. We will have an even playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly owes no special favors to one company.”

Griffin added that DeSantis is involved in working on a plan for the change in regulation, which will be “released soon.”

The Hill has reached out to Disney and Fine for further comment.

—Updated at 11:45 a.m.

Tags Bob Chapek Bob Iger Ron DeSantis

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