Gov. DeSantis backs ending Disney’s ‘special privileges’ as lawmakers threaten crackdown
Image via AP.

'We're certainly not going to bend a knee to woke executives in California.'

In light of Republican lawmakers discussing whether to limit Disney’s self-governing ability, Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida should reevaluate any special privileges for the entertainment giant.

Republican lawmakers have held multiple meetings discussing changes to a self-governing arrangement Disney has enjoyed with the state since 1967. North Fort Myers Republican Rep. Spencer Roach tweeted Wednesday that lawmakers have met twice recently on repealing the law that created municipal-like governments, effectively run by Disney, to regulate the land where Walt Disney World operates. Should the Legislature repeal the law, that would leave the Disney property under the complete authority of Orange and Osceola counties.

Republicans floated the move following public sparring with Disney leadership over a law that prohibits classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity before the fourth grade, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (HB 1557).

Speaking in Ponte Vedra Beach on Thursday, DeSantis told reporters he would not view reducing Disney’s power as retaliatory and encouraged lawmakers to reevaluate special privileges.

“There are certain entities that have exerted a lot of influence through corporate means to generate special privileges in the law,” DeSantis said. “I don’t think we should have special privileges in the law at all.”

The 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act created the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), establishing local government-like operations in Bay Creek and Reedy Creek. The district effectively taxes the land and operates government services with that revenue, allowing self-government.

The RCID operates its own fire protection, security services, utilities and planning. Its Board of Supervisors is selected by landowners, effectively meaning the Disney corporation installs the government regulating the 38.5-square-mile property.

DeSantis’ Office has highlighted his current fight with Disney as evidence the Governor can’t be bought by corporations. However, he acknowledged one instance last year in which Disney had its way.

“The one time they got something when I’ve been Governor was that Big Tech carve-out,” DeSantis said. “That was wrong at the time, and it should be repealed.”

DeSantis in May signed legislation against social media deplatforming he pushed for after Twitter and other prominent social media companies removed then-President Donald Trump from their platforms following the U.S. Capitol riot. By the time the bill reached the Governor’s desk, it contained a carve-out for companies that own theme parks, which Spring Hill Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia said was a move to protect Disney Plus.

“I opposed that when it happened. I had to make a decision, do I veto? Do I throw the baby out with the bathwater and veto the entire bill? And I didn’t think it was worth doing,” DeSantis said.

However, former Orlando Sentinel reporter Jason Garcia wrote in February that language to protect Disney written during the final two days of the 2021 Legislative Session arose after conversations with the Governor’s Office. The Governor’s staff and legislative staff were resistant to Disney’s suggestions, according to the report, but eventually adopted the theme park approach.

Lawmakers are also taking a stand against Disney on the campaign front. Rep. Joe Harding, an Ocala Republican who sponsored the bill, on Tuesday returned all his previous political donations from Disney. Dade City Republican Rep. Randy Maggard followed suit on Wednesday. DeLand Republican Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff announced a similar move Thursday.

Disney has wielded significant political influence in years past, DeSantis told reporters. But he believes that it’s dissipating.

“I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve got so far over their skis on this parental rights stuff, because I think they’re used to having their way and they’re not used to having people that will stand in their way,” DeSantis said.

Florida will be governed in the best interests of its residents, the Governor said.

“We’re certainly not going to bend a knee to woke executives in California. That is not the way the state’s going to be run,” DeSantis said. “So I would say, reevaluate any special privileges in the law.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • skeptical

    March 31, 2022 at 4:01 pm

    Disney has parks as far as Tokyo
    Mickey Mouse could steal your girl Ron

    • Carl Parsons

      April 1, 2022 at 5:07 am

      Mickey Mouse is so gay.

      • Yeah he is

        April 1, 2022 at 12:51 pm

        He also makes sure ron and his family eat lol

    • tom

      April 4, 2022 at 2:20 pm

      Good I don’t think any business should have that kind of power

  • Tom Morris

    March 31, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    Geeez, Florida is run by a bunch of f-ing a-holes. We should all stop visiting or having anything to do with such horrible people. The Yucatan is nicer and cheaper anyway.

    • Carl Parsons

      April 1, 2022 at 5:07 am

      Don’t try to sexualize children.

      • Money man

        April 1, 2022 at 10:51 pm

        Money talks
        Florida walks off a economic cliff

    • Richard R Delgado

      April 1, 2022 at 9:01 am

      Groomer supporter..

      • Surfs up

        April 1, 2022 at 12:52 pm

        Go practice building a hotel that won’t collapse florida lol

  • mawendt

    March 31, 2022 at 11:48 pm

    Yucatan is yucky, with a high crime rate. And the Mouse seems to have less interest in Minnie than in Goofy these days, if you know what I mean.

    Disney wanted to be political, so, now they on the receiving end of politics. Desantis and the Republicans of Florida have no problem stripping Disney of any favoritisms Disney got in the past – when they operated… non-politically. I hope Desantis gives Disney a political ‘Will Smith-ing’ and rock them back into staying out of politics.

    If you wanna play, ya better know the rules, Disney.

    • They already won

      April 1, 2022 at 12:05 am

      A state retirement home named Florida is gonna take Disney?

      You Republicans can’t even buy gas lol

      • Carl Parsons

        April 1, 2022 at 5:06 am

        Okay, Groomer.

        • Bob C

          April 1, 2022 at 11:06 am

          Let’s go Carl, and your horse.

    • Nick Whitehead

      April 4, 2022 at 4:19 pm

      Hummm, DeSantis and the Republicans had no problem with Disney being political when they agreed with them. Then the Republicans went so far to the right that they left most of corporate America on the other side. Now, they don’t think corporations should be political. Typical Republican hypocrisy.

  • Inmates are Running the Asylum

    April 1, 2022 at 9:13 am

    This was a useless bill to start a culture war. NOBODY WAS GROOMING K-3 year olds or even talking about sexuality in those grades.

    How about some evidence before a law is put forth either the state house or senate to see if it’s even needed? Nobody is talking about that.

    It’s like headlines on CNN and FOX. It’s to start shit. And it’s not helping the Floridians on either side.

    • X

      April 1, 2022 at 4:03 pm

      If nobody was teaching it then there is nothing to complain about. But even that isn’t true. There are examples of kids forced to take drugs or transitioning without parents knowing. Even cases of suicides because of what these kids are being put through.

      • Hit palace

        April 1, 2022 at 9:18 pm

        Jesus is gonna send you to hell for lying lol

      • Inmates are Running the Asylum

        April 2, 2022 at 7:31 am

        If nobody is teaching it, it didn’t the legislation time, becuase it wasn’t a problem. It was pandering. Fix the shit that’s real.

      • Nick Whitehead

        April 4, 2022 at 4:24 pm

        That’s false. Show me one case of that happening. I’ll be waiting.

    • BrokenInNJ

      April 2, 2022 at 5:47 am

      So explain to me why my 6 year old daughter, who’s in kindergarten. Came home with book called ‘Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution’. This illustrated book introduces children to the story of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, the two transgender women of colour who helped kickstart the Stonewall Riots and dedicated their lives to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality. It introduces children to issues surrounding gender identity and diversity, accompanied by a reading guide and teaching materials to further the conversation.

      My 6 year old has NO business coming home from school with a book like this from the “special section” of the library. She asked me about SEX at age SIX. These people pushing this agenda are SICK! If you don’t think this is coming for your kids you’re dead wrong. Thank GOD for men like Ron DeSantis for standing up to this twisted grooming of our youth!

      • Inmates Running the Asylum

        April 2, 2022 at 7:43 am

        1.) Was this in Florida? BrokenInNJ? Was it being taught or available in FL?
        2.) I looked up that book and it has nothing to do in it about having sex, it’s about inequality and acceptance. Would you want to remove the same type of books about someone wanting to have different racial or cultural identities because they were 6?
        3.) And let’s get to the brass tax – telling someone it’s OK to LGBTQ is far different than trying to turn them as such.

      • I wanna see kylo

        April 2, 2022 at 7:06 pm

        That book has none of that and I doubt you even have a kid lol

        Boycott Disney. Make the lines shorter for me

      • Edward

        April 4, 2022 at 4:30 pm

        I have a little difficulty believing everything you say. However, even though I am on the opposite side of this issue from you, I agree with you here. Your daughter should not have been exposed to such material.

  • Ed Jones

    April 1, 2022 at 10:10 am

    Funny how when pandemic first hit DeSantis made damn sure Disney got first crack @ federal aid and made the rest of us jump through circus hoops but yet now treats them like redheaded step child. Obviously made enough kickbacks off his regeneron buddies so doesnt need the mouse’s $. Besides in his mind he will be ditching Fl for DC in a few years so who gives a shit if Disney pulls out of Fl and creates a giant hole in the economy

Comments are closed.


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