DeSantis Vs. Disney: Why Are They At Odds?

Desantis goes against Disney for not supporting his law known as “Don’t say gay” 1:50

(WABNEWS Spanish) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been in a weeks-long fight with the entertainment company Disney, a confrontation that was sparked by the enactment of a law prohibiting schools from teaching young children about orientation or gender identity, known as “Don’t say gay”.

The fight between the governor of Florida and Disney has heated up in recent weeks, with DeSantis supporting the end of a special status that the entertainment company has in Florida, and with Disney announcing that it would stop making political donations in the state.

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Here’s what we know about the confrontation between DeSantis and Disney.

What prevents Florida from withdrawing special status from Disney for now? 1:09 “Don’t say gay”, the beginning of the conflict

In early March 2022, the GOP-controlled Florida Senate passed HB 1557, titled Parental Rights in Education, known as “Don’t Say Gay.” There were 22 votes in favor and 17 against.

This project prohibits teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity to children in school classrooms.

According to the legislation, school districts “may not encourage discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity at the primary grade levels or in a manner that is inappropriate for the age or development of students.” However, it is not clear what would be considered “age” or “developmental” appropriate.

In addition, the measure would require districts to “adopt procedures to notify a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or supervision related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or welfare.”

Opponents of this measure have argued that the ban would have a negative impact on an already marginalized community. They have pointed to data showing that LGBTQ youth report lower rates of attempted suicide when they have access to LGBTQ-affirming spaces.

The measure generated dozens of protests in Florida.

Signed into law in March by DeSantis, a staunch conservative who has a history of supporting anti-LGBTQ measures in the state, the bill will go into effect in July.

Disney Protests ‘Don’t Say Gay’

In this context, Disney, who had initially remained silent on the controversial project, spoke out and the company’s CEO, Bob Chapek, apologized for not having spoken out earlier. Chapek initially said the company would not publicly condemn the proposal. However, some of the company’s employees organized short protest strikes.

Later, in protest of the passage of the Don’t Say Gay law, Chapek announced that the company would stop making political donations in Florida after decades of giving generously, primarily to Republicans, including DeSantis.

DeSantis strikes back

Then, in mid-April, Ron DeSantis escalated his weeks-long dispute with Disney, challenging lawmakers to remove the special status that allows Disney to operate as an independent government at its Orlando, Florida-area theme park.

DeSantis, a Republican widely seen as a possible 2024 presidential contender, signed the bill into law in March over objections from Disney, Florida’s largest private employer.

After DeSantis’ signing, Disney said in a statement that their “goal” was to repeal the law or see it defeated in court.

Florida’s governor said Disney “crossed the line” with that statement and suggested in late March that the company’s “special privileges” could be lifted.

The End of Disney’s Special Status

Strongly pushed by DeSantis, the Florida legislature ultimately approved a series of bills that, among others, remove the unique status that allows Disney to operate as an independent government at its Orlando-area theme parks.

The legislation approved the removal of Reedy Creek, as the special purpose district created by state law in May 1967 is known. It gives The Walt Disney Company government control over the land in and around its downtown theme parks. Florida. The district is located southwest of Orlando.

With the special purpose district, Disney took on the responsibility of providing municipal services such as power, water, roads, and fire protection, but also freed itself from dealing with legal red tape or paying taxes for services that benefited the general public.

Today, the Reedy Creek Special District encompasses about 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties, including four theme parks, two water parks, a sports complex, 175 miles of road, 65 miles of waterway, and the cities of Bay Lake. and Lake Buena Vista, according to its website.

The bill declares that any special district created before November 1968 will be dissolved on June 1, 2023. The text is just over a page long and offers few details.

Dissolution of the special district would mean that Orange and Osceola counties would assume the assets and liabilities of Reedy Creek. That could lead to higher taxes for those residents to pay off Reedy Creek’s debts and take care of roads, policing, fire protection, waste management and more.

Whats Next?

This week Disney’s special self-governing district said Florida’s decision to dissolve it next year is not legal unless the state pays off Reedy Creek’s large debts.

According to the company, Reedy Creek currently has about $1 billion in bond debt outstanding, according to credit rating agency Fitch Ratings.

In a statement issued to its bondholders last Thursday, Reedy Creek noted that the 1967 law also includes a commitment from Florida to its bondholders. The law states that Florida “shall not in any way affect the rights or remedies of the holders…until all such bonds, together with interest thereon, and all costs and expenses in connection with any act or proceeding on the part of such holders or on their behalf, are fully satisfied and liquidated”.

The new law is just two pages long and avoids any discussion of the details of undoing half a century of infrastructure deals, nor does it lay out the next steps in the complicated process. Lawmakers from neighboring Orange and Osceola counties have raised concerns that they will have to pay Reedy Creek’s debts and will have to significantly increase residents’ property taxes.

— With reporting from WABNEWS’s Scottie Andrew, Devan Cole and Zachary B. Wolf, Frank Pallotta, Ramishah Maruf, Steve Contorno, Dianne Gallagher, Steve Contorno, Rachel Janfaza, Eric Levenson and Dianne Gallagher.

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