Just days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he and his Republican allies in the state legislature were targeting Disney World’s governmental district, he signed a law that will eliminate the district in June 2023.
DeSantis made no secret that his motivation in overturning the 55-year-old law that created the Reedy Creek Improvement District was because Disney has publicly called for the repeal of another law, dubbed by its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. That legislation forbid “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in public schools from kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The vague language of the bill may lead to teachers fearing legal repercussions for answering students’ questions on subjects such as same-sex marriage or AIDS in their classrooms.
“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state?” DeSantis said at a bill signing event, as reported by Florida Politics. “We view that as a provocation and we’re going to fight back against that.”
DeSantis also signed a bill removing a carveout for Disney from an earlier law which sought to punish social media companies for claims of “censoring” conservatives — a law which has been blocked since last summer thanks to a court ruling.
Whether the Reedy Creek Improvement District will actually be eliminated is still an open question. The original act creating the district said it could only be eliminated by a referendum of the district’s residents, all of whom would be loyal Disney employees.
There’s also the potential financial impact and the blowback it could create for DeSantis’s 2022 re-election bid. Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph told WKMG that the county would have to take on $1 billion to $2 billion in bond debt and raise property taxes by 10 to 15 percent to absorb the costs of operating services in Reedy Creek that are currently handled by the Disney-owned entity.
“If we had to take over the first response and public safety components for Reedy Creek with no new revenue, that would be catastrophic for our budget in Orange County,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said. “It would put an undue burden on the rest of the taxpayers in Orange County, to fill that gap.”
So far, The Walt Disney Company and CEO Bob Chapek have not released any statement regarding this week’s events, or said what eliminating the district would mean for the future of Walt Disney World.