• Sat. Mar 4th, 2023

Disney district’s autonomy stripped, under control of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Disney officially has a “new sheriff in town” after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that placed the Mouse House’s special tax district under state control.

The Republican-backed bill rebrands Disney’s self-governed Reedy Creek Improvement District as the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District”.

Mr DeSantis gained the authority to appoint the members of a five-person oversight board for the special district – a power that Disney formerly held, the New York Post reports.

“Today the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” Mr DeSantis said at the bill-signing ceremony. “There’s a new sheriff in town and accountability will be the order of the day.”

Disney will be required to comply with state regulations within the district, where it had previously operated with near-autonomy for decades.

The finalised bill keeps the district intact after Mr DeSantis and other Republican officials had initially called for it to be dissolved entirely.

The bill-signing marked the culmination of a months-long feud between Mr DeSantis and Disney after the company and its former CEO Bob Chapek publicly lobbied against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, branded by critics as “Don’t Say Gay”.

It bars teachers in the state from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with students below year four.

The Post has reached out to Disney for comment.

The campaign marked a political victory for Mr DeSantis, whose high-profile war of words with Disney helped to raise his national profile ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Mr DeSantis has built a major following within the Republican Party while crusading against “woke” ideology in business, culture and education.

He is considered a frontrunner for the GOP’s nomination, though he has yet to formally enter the race.

The DeSantis-led overhaul cost Disney control over a district it had effectively controlled as a state-within-a-state for decades.

Under the old arrangement, Disney had the ability to levy taxes, issue bonds, exert control over public services such as police and fire departments and even build its own nuclear power plant within the district if it wanted.

The bill left the district’s debt obligations and other financial structures intact. Mr DeSantis vowed at a press conference earlier this month that the changes would not result in any additional tax burden for Floridians.

The pledge came after some critics had suggested the overhaul would shift Disney’s debt obligations to taxpayers.

“Disney’s going to pay its fair share of taxes and Disney’s going to honour the debt and that’s exactly what this proposed piece of legislation will do,” Mr DeSantis said.

The changes to its special tax district mark another setback for Disney, which is in the midst of a turnaround effort under CEO Bob Iger. The company recently announced a major cost-cutting plan that included 7000 lay-offs.

Disney is also facing pushback from its corporate staffers over Mr Iger’s mandate that they return to the office at least four days per week.

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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