Disney’s Long Battle With Florida Is Over, And There Is One Clear Winner

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has taken control of Disney's board of development at Walt Disney World.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

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“There’s a new sheriff in town,” according to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has just gained control of the board of development at Walt Disney World. Per The Hollywood Reporter, DeSantis set out to overtake the board that oversees development at the Florida-based amusement park after Disney openly opposed DeSantis’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, a law that prohibits instruction on gender sexuality through the third grade.

Although Disney was initially a donor for the Florida politician, DeSantis refused to hold back after the company pushed back on the Governor’s Parental Rights in Education Law. The law, which had previously been called the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act,” became known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law because of how it bans public school teachers from talking about gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Disney, the state’s largest employer and the company in control of a park that is a safe haven for members of the LGBTQ+ community, was initially silent about the bill, but after pushback from its employees, the company spoke out against it. 

In response, Florida lawmakers immediately began working on a bill that specifically targeted Disney. The bill aimed to dissolve independent special districts that were created prior to 1968. While Florida has hundreds of special districts, the majority of them were created after that date, meaning that the law would pretty much only apply to the Disney Corporation.

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After that bill passed, DeSantis had his team work to develop another bill that would reshape the leadership structure in these special districts. This new law changed the name of the board that oversees development at Disney from Reedy Creek Improvement District to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Additionally, DeSantis now has the authority to appoint and approve all the members of this board.

Even with DeSantis in charge of the development board at the Florida amusement park, Disney still gets to keep most of the perks gained from being a special district in the state. The company still benefits from a collection of tax breaks and is still able to issue bonds and provide infrastructure services on its property.

Democratic Representative Anna V. Eskamani, from Orlando, made a statement clarifying that the law DeSantis has passed does not change a lot for Disney other than the development board’s name. However, Eskamani stressed that the law that suppresses Disney’s First Amendment rights was meant as more of a message from DeSantis, showing how the Governor will not hesitate to come after individuals and companies if they don’t support his policies. 

Even though he has already delivered his message by taking over the Disney development board, DeSantis doesn’t seem to be through with his feud with the company. DeSantis made a statement that he could be coming after the content Disney creates next, aiming to ensure that the entertainment provided by the company is something that “all families can appreciate,” i.e., content that matches the values that DeSantis and his voters are known for. While the Florida Governor didn’t clarify the type of content he meant, this statement could have been in response to Disney increasing the LGBTQ+ representation in their more recent films.