Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis takes control of Walt Disney World’s autonomous zone in apparent retaliation for criticism of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill | US News

The autonomous territory Disney uses to operate its Florida theme parks has been taken over by the state’s governor, in apparent punishment for the state’s anti-LGBTQ+ education legislation.

Ron DeSantis, widely considered a challenger for the White House next year, signed a bill Monday that would take control of the Reed Creek Improvement District and rename it the Central Florida Tourism Oversight district.

Disney has used its own government to make quick decisions about infrastructure at its sprawling theme park site near Orlando without going to the state for approval.

The Reedy Creek District was created in 1967 when the company’s founder, Walt Disney, was developing plans for the city of the future and thought he needed overall oversight of the project.

That city later became Epcot, the company’s second theme park in Florida.

Mr DeSantis has his sights set on the region after Disney made it public it opposes his bill to block teaching Sex and gender identity from kindergarten to third grade, and in lessons deemed inappropriate.

Disney’s then-CEO, Bob Chapek, was criticized by many employees for not responding quickly enough to the law, which critics dismissed as a “don’t say gay” bill.

In return, Mr. DeSantis said Disney, one of his state’s largest employers and the state’s largest single taxpayer, was a purveyor of an “awakened” ideology that exposed inappropriate material to children.

“They have privileges that have not been enjoyed by any company or individual in Florida since the 1960s,” Mr. DeSantis said at an event at Lake Buena Vista near the theme park complex.

“They have legal immunity that other people must abide by. They are able to receive huge benefits without paying the taxes they are due.

“How do you get one theme park to have its own government and then treat all the other theme parks differently?

“So we don’t think it’s good policy. We don’t think it’s reasonable or sustainable to go head-to-head with this California-based company.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to reporters in Tallahassee, Fla. Photo: Tallahassee Democrat/AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely seen as a potential White House challenger.FILE PHOTO: AP

Mr. DeSantis, who will publish a book this week and has been expanding his profile in recent months, said Disney’s theme parks, four of which are in the region, will now be managed in the same way as the likes of SeaWorld and Universal Studios. studio.

The bill effectively ends Disney’s control of the region and hands it over to the state, meaning the Florida state government can appoint its own board to the region, as long as they haven’t been employed by Disney within the past three years.

The first board members include the wife of the Florida Republican chairman, the local Republican mayor and the head of an evangelical mission group.

Disney has yet to comment on the move.

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