Disney Magic Fading From Florida?!

The Florida Legislature has stripped Disney of its special self-governing status


Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse outside Cinderella’s Castle (Photo: disneyworld.com)

Morgan Salter, Staff Writer/Editor

On Friday April 22, Governor DeSantis of Florida signed a bill into law that would strip Disney of its specail self governing status but would not take effect until June 2023, which would give both sides time to adjust to this new reality that DeSantis and the Republican Party created.

This special status which is formally called the Reedy Creek Improvement District has been in effect since the 1960s, more than half a century. This district allows Disney to operate Walt Disney World Resort as its own little city which is about

Map of Reedy Creek Improvement District (Photo: rcid.org)

25,000 acres which includes four theme parks, two water parks, and 175 miles of roads. This status also gave the company the authority to levy taxes, build roads, and control its own utilities. Furthermore, the district has also enabled Disney to function like a county government, with its own board of supervisors and provides services such as fire-fighting within Orange and Osceola counties. In turn Disney can issue bonds with tax advantages to pay for improvements.

All of this went down over a Florida bill named HB 1557 which critics of the bill name it the “Dont Say Gay” bill while proponents call it the “Parental Rights in Education” bill. What happened was at first Disney employees called out and opposed the bill but the company remained silent, however, later on Disney spoke out against the bill after it was passed and signed on March 28, stating the bill “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

Governor DeSantis talking about HB 1557 (Photo: WFTX Digital Team)

The comment made by Disney greatly upset Governor DeSantis who quickly fired backed that, “I don’t care what Hollywood says. I don’t care what big corporations say. Here I stand. I am not backing down.” He later said that Disney had “crossed the line” and questioned Disney’s special status, “I would say any special privileges that are in law I would like to get rid of generally,” he said.  However, out of the 1,800 special districts the only one being affected is Disney.

This split that Disney and the state are now experiencing has broken up a very cozy relationship. For a multidue of years Disney has provided political contributions for the state just in 2020, the company donated $4.8 million in total, including campaign funds to more than 100 individual Florida legislative members, some of whom supported the bill to strip Disny of its special status. But its not just political contributions, Disney paid $780.3 million in state and local taxes in 2021.

It is unclear which of the two major parties will hurt more over this break up, Disney or Florida, but one thing for sure is that the locals will hurt the most, who will have an increase in taxes. Since Disney owned the district, the company paid for maintaining roads, facilities, utlities and much more but with it now gone this burden now falls onto the locals. This

Fort Bend County (Photo: texas.gov)

increase will come from the legislature who are now looking for someone to foot the bill and fill the void and it will most likely give the burden to locals who already pay a hefty tax and with the increasing inflation of the economy, it could overburden the taxpayer.

With this break up, many states are now trying to lure Disney to pick up and move from Florida and set up shop in a more business friendly area. A Texas judge, Judge KP George, invited teh compay to move to Fort Bend County, which houses a small part of Houston, in a letter sent April 21, it states, “While you, your company, employees and diverse fans face authoritarian, anti-business and culture war attacks from extremists in Florida, we in Fort Bend are more ready to welcome the Disney family with thousands of good-paying jobs and billions of dollars of investments.”

Represntative Jason Crow (Photo: house.gov)

He later on goes to talk about the great economy in the area writing, “With a strong focus on economic development, we encourage small and large business growth through a business-friendly climate; we make a difference in our children’s lives everyday through youth empowerment initiatives and aim to continue improving the quality of life through new, fresh and innovative ideas,” George said. “I invite you to visit Fort Bend County and see for yourself why our community is the best place for a new Walt Disney World Resort.”

But the South isn’t the only state trying to get Disney’s attention the West is too with Colorado itsef throwing its hat into the ring. With Colorado Representative Jason Crow taking aim at Florida in a tweet stating, “the party that claims to be pro-business & free speech just targeted a private business for defending its employees and customers.” And Governor Jared Polis adding on that, “Florida’s authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector are driving businesses away. In CO, we don’t meddle in affairs of companies like @Disney or @Twitter. Hey @Disney we’re ready for Mountain Disneyland and @twitter we’re ready for Twitter HQ2, whoever your owners are,” he later reaffirmed his postion in another tweet saying, “we will grant Mickey and Minnie full asylum in Colorado.”

The only thing Disney has really done is cut of all poltical donations in the state of Florida. The comapny did this silently and did not announce this move very publicly. But further action in retaliation aganist Florida has not taken place. And many are unsure if the mouse will dceide to retaliate in a big public way or not.

Governor Jared Polis (Photo: Associated Press/David Zalubowski)

Now it is unclear if Disney will decide to pick up its bags and move to a new location or fire back at the state for its actions. It will most likey get worse before it gets better and that tensions will most likey still rise and escalate as both sides try to navigate this new norm. So we must hold our breath and see how this plays out in the near future.