After Influential Stance on Education Act, Governor DeSantis Asks State Legislature to Revoke Disney World’s “Self Governing” Status

Walt Disney World
Disney World, the largest employer in Florida, may soon find themselves stripped of the special status that has allowed Disney World to effectively govern itself for the past 55 years. File photo: Viaval Tours, Shutter Stock, licensed.

ORLANDO, FL – As part of his ongoing feud with Disney over the Parental Rights in Education Act, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday asked the state legislature to hold a special session and revoke the special self-governing status that Disney World has enjoyed since 1967, which would then find the amusement park governed by the laws of Orange County instead.

The Parental Rights in Education Act – dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics, who claim it is discriminatory against LGBTQ people – prohibits discussion or teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida public school classrooms from kindergarten through third grade.

Following an initial backlash for their lack of response to the proposed legislation – which was signed into law by DeSantis on March 28 – Disney has since become one of the more outspoken critics of the Parental Rights in Education Act.

“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” Disney said. “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

However, as a result of Disney’s outspoken opposition to the law – which has proven to be popular amongst both Republican and Democratic Florida residents – the largest employer in Florida may soon find themselves stripped of the special status that has allowed Disney World to effectively govern itself for the past 55 years.

“I am announcing today that we are expanding the call of what they are going to be considering,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “Yes, they will be considering the congressional map but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”

The Reedy Creek Improvement Act – signed into law in May 1967 after lobbying efforts by Disney – allows the 25,000 acre Disney World to have the same authority and responsibility as a county government. If stripped of its special self-governing status, the amusement park would have to defer to Orange County officials on a variety of matters, such as being required to obtain permits whenever building anything.

“What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power,” DeSantis previously said last week. “I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years.”

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