Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is making a third attempt to oust Walt Disney World after the firm humiliated him by quietly attempting to retain control of its land.
DeSantis highlighted several potential retaliations against the resort and theme park during a press conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. It is the city where Disney is situated, including the potential for construction on the 40 square miles of land that it borders.
DeSantis suggested that the area might be developed into a public park, another amusement park, or perhaps a state prison. Such construction might lower the value of neighboring properties.
The latest punishment by Ron DeSantis against Disney for opposing his ‘don’t say gay’ rule is his promise to erect a new state prison near the company’s amusement park in central Florida.
During a hastily called Monday noon press conference, the Republican governor withdrew the idea and outlined the steps the state legislature will take to try to retake control over Florida’s largest private employer.
The action is the latest in a long-running dispute that started in March 2022 when Disney’s then CEO Bob Chapek opposed an act known as the ‘don’t say gay’ law that prohibited discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida elementary school classrooms.
The Republicans and Disney have been at odds since last year when the company slammed a Florida law that limited the study of gender and sexuality. The conflict has brought the potential presidential candidate to the attention of the nation.
Although Mr. DeSantis has not declared his intention to run for president in 2014, he has enhanced his profile by pledging to oppose what he calls a woke liberal agenda in corporate America and education.
He became angry with Disney after the corporation, under pressure from its employees, spoke out against the state’s Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill because it forbids teaching students under the age of nine about sexual orientation and gender identity.
In response, state legislators passed a resolution reorganizing the special district established more than 50 years ago to supervise construction at Walt Disney World, granting the governor, rather than the district’s landowners, the authority to nominate members to its governing board.
However, Disney has subsequently been accused by the new board of eluding it with a last-minute agreement that grants the company nearly entire control over development in the district indefinitely or 21 years after the death of the former board member.
In February, DeSantis attempted to take control of Disney by removing its management team and replacing it with a hand-picked group of Republican supporters, one of whom was involved in the creation of the education bill.
The hard-right governor, who is most likely to run for president of his party in 2024, was humiliated in March when it came to light that the departing board had agreed to hand over control to the corporation itself.
Sensing his mistake, DeSantis proposed a fresh proposal Monday, calling the arrangement a sham with no legal foundation that would give the governor’s appointees back control of the special district that houses Disney World.
The new laws also give the newly formed board the right to decide how to develop land next to Disney’s theme parks, pass permission for the state to inspect theme park rides and transportation, and impose a heavier tax burden on Disney. DeSantis indicated that the new board might develop a state park, a rival theme park, or a prison on Disney’s 27,000 acres of land in Central Florida.
The governor didn’t stop punishing Disney World for the humiliation he had faced. He gave a preview of a law that the legislature would submit the following week and which would put new inspection requirements on Disney, particularly on its rides and monorail.
Dseny enjoys special self-governing privileges in Florida that many other businesses, including competing theme parks like Seaworld and Universal Studios, do not. DeSantis has been working to repeal the long-standing rule.
Disney is exempt from having to submit its plans to zoning commissioners or building inspection agencies, unlike those other parks. This improves the efficiency of their operations and helps them save both time and money.
According to Governor DeSantis, Disney’s actions are an attempt to defy Floridians and state legislators. He described the conflict as one over whether companies should receive preferential treatment under state law. A request for comment on the reports and rumors was not answered by Disney.
As previously stated, Disney CEO Bob Iger characterized Mr. DeSantis’s attitude as anti-business and anti-Florida and asserted that the firm had the right to take a public stance. According to him, the governor is attempting to punish Disney World for exercising a constitutional right.
Early 2022 saw the start of the DeSantis-Disney conflict. The Parental Rights in Education Act, which Democrats and LGBTQ rights organizations have mocked as ‘don’t say gay’ because it restricts classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation, drew DeSantis’ anger after Disney executives declared publicly that the company would work to have it repealed.