Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) was just handed another win against Disney. True to his mess with the bull and get the horns approach, the Florida Governor is expected to sign legislation that was approved by state lawmakers on Friday, Feb. 10 to revamp the entertainment company’s Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). Disney’s self-governing days are over and the governor’s war on woke just notched one more victory.
Disney Will Be Governed by New Board
On Feb. 1, the Florida House State Affairs Committee passed HB 9B by a 13-3 vote, and on Feb. 10, the House voted 26-9 in favor of the bill. Now all that needs to happen is for DeSantis to sign it when it hits his desk – but that is pretty much a done deal. As the governor said during a press conference, “This is obviously now going to be controlled by the state of Florida, which is no longer self-governing for them [Disney]. So, there’s a new sheriff in town and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”
Disney has had full control over its business, taxes, permits, and so on, acting as a separate jurisdiction within the state. Now, however, it will have to answer to a board of five members, appointed by none other than DeSantis, with emphasis on the fact that no person with ties to the company can be a board member. The RCID was created in 1967 so that Disney could manage its property and fast-track construction permits, among other perks. Its board up until now has been appointed solely by Disney, with members having the same authorities as a county-level government. RCID is much like its own state, with the ability to levy taxes, manage police and emergency services, roadways, and other government-type duties. Since its inception, the Reedy Creek Special Improvement District has built four theme parks, various restaurants, two waterparks, and dozens of hotels. It was created to be exempt from state regulations, including certain building codes.
Last year, the RCID was on the chopping block to be dissolved, but some legislators feared doing so might mean the debts would be handed to the taxpayers of Orange and Osceola counties. This new approach will still allow day-to-day operations for the entertainment district, but its more than $1 billion in bonds debt will remain the responsibility of the company.
Gabriel Llanes is the executive director of Ready for Ron, an action committee advocating for a DeSantis presidential run. In a statement to VOA, he said, “Disney executives thought they could go into political overdrive with no repercussions. But they were wrong, and Disney has been losing to Ron DeSantis ever since.”
Richard Foglesong, an emeritus professor at Rollins College in Florida and author of the 2003 book Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando, told VOA that this legislation is nothing more than a political play and nothing to do with the company being more transparent. “This started because the governor wanted to punish Disney for coming out against his ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation. It didn’t start with complaints about how Disney was using its special powers.”
Llanes’ statement seems to support the professor’s claim:
“As long as Disney tries to play the ‘woke’ game, DeSantis should strip the company of any special privileges it once had and stand up for the tens of millions of Floridians who are sick and tired of woke politics. While corporate elites pander to the radical Left, DeSantis continues to be a conservative champion of the people.”
Oh, and one more tiny change for the district. No longer will it be known as the Reedy Creek Special Improvement District. The bill has renamed it to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. At least one Democrat was not happy with the name change and offered an alternative: Florida’s Attempt to Silence Critical and Independent Speech and Thought, giving it the acronym “FASCIST.” Anna Eskamani vehemently opposed HB 9B and tweeted:
“Florida House Republicans just approved the hostile takeover of Reedy Creek and admitted that the district keeps all of the same tax perks. It was never about corporate accountability and always about trying to punish Disney for defending LGBTQ+ people.”
Disney World President Jeff Vahle said in a statement that the company is monitoring the legislation, “which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
Disney has seen a series of setbacks over the last couple of years, aside from its war with The Sunshine State’s governor. Besides a loss in revenues because people just can’t afford to visit the once Happiest Place on Earth, the company now faces the potential loss of copyright protection for some of its iconic cartoon characters. Becoming so woke has taken its toll as the theme parks are replacing or updating so-called racist rides and attractions, costing millions of dollars. Recently, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride made the social media spotlight as passengers videoed being stranded in a sinking boat while waiting for emergency personnel to recue them. Some might call this sinking ship a portent of what is to come, and the company’s announcement on Feb. 8 that it will attempt to save $5.5 billion by getting rid of 7,000 jobs lends a little credence to the idea that Disney is not doing as well as some might think.
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