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DeSantis calls on Florida legislature to repeal Disney's special self-governance status

DeSantis’ announcement was met with applause from his supporters, many of whom have long supported the governor’s desire to repeal the 55-year-old state law that allows Disney to effectively govern itself on park grounds

April 19, 2022 1:42pm

Updated: April 19, 2022 1:42pm

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday that he has called on Florida’s legislature to repeal the special status that allows Disney to operate as an independent government around its Orlando-area theme park, just days after the company publicly voiced opposition to the governor’s controversial parental rights bill.

"I am announcing today that we are expanding the call of what they are going to be considering," DeSantis said during a press conference at The Villages in Florida. "Yes, they will be considering the congressional map but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968 and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District."

DeSantis’ announcement was met with applause from his supporters, many of whom have long supported the governor’s desire to repeal the 55-year-old state law that allows Disney to effectively govern itself on park grounds, Fox News reported.

"What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power," DeSantis told reporters at a press conference last month.

"I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years," he added. 

The Republican governor also issued a proclamation outlining the various reasons his administration believes Disney’s special status should be repealed by the legislature.

Ever since DeSantis announced House Bill 1557 last month, critics have dubbed the measure as the “Don’t Say Gay bill,” a move which conservatives have blasted as misleading and intellectually dishonest.

According to the bill’s text, the legislation would serve to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children” by prohibiting schools from enacting policies that prevent the disclosure to parents of “critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.”

Furthermore, the bill prohibits “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade.

But after the bill was signed on March 28, Disney -- Florida's largest private employer -- voiced opposition to the law and the company’s CEO Bob Chapek told attendees at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders that his team has been “opposed to the bill from the outset.”

Shortly after the bill was signed, Disney released a statement slamming the bill while echoing media headlines by labeling it the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

"Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," Disney said. "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."

DeSantis was quick to respond by blasting the California-based corporation, claiming they had “crossed the line.”

"For Disney to come out and put a statement and say that the bill should have never passed and that they are going to actively work to repeal it, I think one was fundamentally dishonest, but two, I think that crossed the line," DeSantis told reporters in Tallahassee.

"This state is governed by the interest of the people of the state of Florida," he said. "It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives. They do not run this state; they do not control this state."

Recent polling has shown that the bill is popular among Floridians, including 52% of likely Democratic primary voters.

Florida State Rep. Spencer Roach also supports DeSantis’ move and recently tweeted that he had met with legislators to discuss repealing the self-governing law in response to Disney’s recent actions. 

"Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government," Roach tweeted. "If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County."