Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and The Walt Disney Company have been linked in the headlines throughout 2022.
What is the feud about? And when did it start? Here’s a timeline:
Sexual orientation education law in March 2022
Florida passed a law known as the Parental Rights in Education Act — called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics — which states that instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity is not allowed to be taught in any classroom before fourth grade.
The Atlantic reported that Disney executives didn’t respond at first, but after many employees voiced their objection to the law, Disney CEO Bob Chapek finally spoke out in criticism of it and also mentioned DeSantis.
“We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose to not take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind the scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle,” Chapek said in a Disney shareholder meeting in March, per The New York Times.
Florida passes law to dissolve Reedy Creek
In April, DeSantis signed a law that will dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek governing district by June 2023, according to The Business Journal. This will remove Disney’s ability to build up structures as it likes and tax itself to provide services, such as firefighters, to help keep people safe in the Disney World parks, according to The Washington Post.
Explained CNBC: “While proponents of the bill have denied that it is a retaliatory act against Disney, critics see it as retribution for publicly quarreling with the governor.”
Some local government officials were troubled that taxpayers would have to pay the $766 million bond debt that Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District still had to pay.
DeSantis said that for local governments, “it’d be a cash cow for them if they had Disney,” adding it’s “more likely that the state will simply assume control and make sure that we’re able to impose the law and make sure we’re collecting the taxes.”
“People who criticize me saying you’re punishing Disney are also saying we’re going to relieve Disney of $766 million in debt? How would that be a punishment?” DeSantis said. “It makes no sense that that would be the case.”
According to DeSantis’ staff, details about the new law are still being decided on.
“I can tell you this, that debt will not end up going to any of these local governments. It’s not going to go to the state government either. It’s going to absolutely be dealt with by (Disney and other businesses) that are currently in that district,” DeSantis said, according to The Hill.
State Rep. Carlos Guillermo-Smith, a Democrat who represents parts of Orange County, declared that DeSantis’ statements on this issue were “an alarming turn of events.”
“This is the DeSantis administration openly saying they plan to seize control of a local government for opposing his extreme agenda,” Guillermo-Smith said. “The gravity of what we’re seeing happening in front of us should be a warning sign to all Americans and to all Floridians.”