(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — The dispute between Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ and The Walt Disney Company continued to play out in public on Wednesday when the Florida state Senate passed a bill that would eliminate Walt Disney World’s special district in the state.
The legislation, which was voted on during a special session of the legislature focused on redistricting, was put forward by Republicans after Disney opposed Florida’s highly controversial Parental Rights in Education Law, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“I am announcing today that we are expanding the call of what they are going to be considering this week. And so 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,” DeSantis said Tuesday, referring to Disney’s district.
The Florida Senate passed the bill in a 23-16 vote, and it’s expected to go to the House swiftly for a vote by Thursday.
If passed by the House and signed into law, it would terminate the special district that Walt Disney World uses to operate as its own municipality and could set up a court battle over the theme parks’ future.
ABC News is owned by The Walt Disney Company, which also owns Walt Disney World.
State Rep. Randy Fine, a sponsor of the measure, was in committee Wednesday to face questions from colleagues about the bill, and some asked whether the intent was to target the Walt Disney Company.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith asked Fine about what would happen to the other special districts that would be eliminated under the legislation and if they would become a “casualty of this vendetta against Disney.”
Fine pushed back, saying Republicans were looking into all special districts, not just Disney’s.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District is one of six districts the bill would eliminate. It stretches 25,000 acres and oversees its own land use and environmental protections as well as provides essential public services such as emergency medical services and fire protection.
Disney’s status became the subject of DeSantis’ public scrutiny after the media conglomerate spoke out about Florida’s new law that limits the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms and which DeSantis signed into law in late March. The Walt Disney Company vowed to help appeal it.
“Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. 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,” said a Disney spokesperson at the time.
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