Florida legislature votes to take control of Disney-governed Orlando district

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Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The 40-square mile of an Orlando district governed by Disney, called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, may soon slip out of the studio’s control as Florida Legislature has voted to terminate Disney’s governance on the district.

The move is seen as a retaliation for the company’s resistance to the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, reports ‘Variety’.

As per ‘Variety’, The House of Representatives approved the bill on a vote of 70-38, a day after the measure passed through the state Senate. The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has taken aim at “special privileges” for Disney, since the company announced its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education law last month. The bill forbids classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, and it mandates that all discussion in later grades be “age appropriate.” Parents are also given the power to sue school districts over alleged violations.

Disney came out against the law after an uprising from its own employees, who faulted the company for staying silent in the face of an anti-LGBT agenda.

The legislature created the Reedy Creek district in 1967, giving Disney almost total control over zoning, public services and utilities at the Walt Disney World Resort and its three other Orlando theme parks.

Post the hand over of governance, Orange and Osceola counties would likely have to assume responsibility for public services in the area. The government would also inherit the district’s debt, which currently stands at nearly $1 billion.

Scott Randolph, the elected Orange County tax collector, tweeted on Wednesday that eliminating the district would cost the county $163 million per year for services and debt payments.

The move could well face legal challenges. Disney did not issue a comment. The legislature also passed a bill to remove a special carve-out for Disney from the state’s social media “censorship” law.

The law is intended to regulate social media platforms, but it’s on hold pending a federal lawsuit. Just before it was approved last year, legislators created an exemption for any company that owns a theme park in the state, in a move to protect Disney+.

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