Disney stripped of special tax status in Florida over 'Don’t Say Gay' bill

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Disney World in Florida   (AP)
Disney World in Florida (AP)

Disney has been stripped of the right to govern its Florida theme park following a row over an LGBT bill.

The Florida House of Representatives has given final passage to a Bill that would dissolve Walt Disney World’s private government.

The measure would abolish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a body founded by Walt Disney himself in 1967 to manage infrastructure within its 38 square-mile estate in Orlando - such as utilities and a fire station - and to regulate its own construction.

The change would come into effect in June 2023.

The move could have tax implications for Disney, whose series of theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

Disney, the largest private employer in the state, had condemned a measure that opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis (pictured) has been embroiled in a spat with Disney over a law that bans teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students (Getty Images)
Florida governor Ron DeSantis (pictured) has been embroiled in a spat with Disney over a law that bans teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students (Getty Images)

The film giant criticised the law which barrs instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

In March, Disney said it would suspend political donations in the state and pledged to support organisations working to oppose the law.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis then lashed out at the entertainment firm and defended the law as reasonable.

“Disney and other woke corporations won’t get away with peddling their unchecked pressure campaigns any longer,” Republican politician DeSantis wrote in a fundraising pitch on Wednesday.

“If we want to keep the Democrat machine and their corporate lapdogs accountable, we have to stand together now.”

Democrats have criticised the Disney proposal as clear retaliation against the company and warned local homeowners could get hit with big tax bills if they have to absorb bond debt from Disney.

Disney is one of Florida’s biggest private employers.

Last year 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 (11,000 hectares) in Florida, was a crucial element in the company’s decision 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 materialised, however; instead, it morphed into the Epcot theme park.

The Standard has approached Disney’s representatives for comment.

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