UNITED STATES. Florida: After a legal battle over a rule that prohibits discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, Florida’s far-right governor, Ron DeSantis, has gained the authority to choose the members of the board that oversees the construction of the state’s renowned Walt Disney World theme parks.
As a result, Disney is about to lose some of its autonomy in Florida after nearly 60 years. Still, the firm has managed to hang onto some of its important advantages despite the cultural war DeSantis has waged against it.
Nevertheless, DeSantis declared victory over the corporation that uses Mickey Mouse as its mascot, saying, “There’s a new sheriff in town,” with his trademark bluster.
DeSantis had a problem with Disney when the media giant decided to stop giving money to political campaigns in Florida after the state legislature passed a “don’t say gay” rule last year that made it harder for LGBTQ+ topics to be discussed in schools.
The 25,000-acre Disney World theme park complex is located in Florida’s Orlando region. It debuted in 1971 and allegedly welcomed roughly 13 million visitors the previous year. In retaliation, DeSantis attempted to revoke Disney’s registration as a special tax district, which allowed the company to manage them independently by issuing tax-exempt bonds and proceeding with construction plans without consulting some local authorities.
The state legislature, which the governor’s fellow Republicans control, voted to strip Disney of its tax district designation, effective as of June 1, 2023. Though DeSantis’ requests for Disney became clear, dissolving the district would force the nearby theme park counties of Orange and Osceola to pay for Disney’s firefighting, law enforcement, and road maintenance services.
A $1 billion or so debt owed by the Disney tax district would also need to be paid for by the county’s taxpayers.
Therefore, Florida’s lawmakers changed their strategy this week. They created a bill that would give the state’s governor the authority to choose the five individuals who would make up the tax district’s governing board.
According to reports, Disney may have to pay taxes to support road projects outside the theme park complex, and new construction costs may rise due to the measure’s elimination of some of the company’s regulatory exemptions.
The new law would still allow Disney to keep its special tax district status. The board would also have no control over the content the firm chooses to show visitors to its theme parks and viewers of its films and television programs.
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