Sen. Joe Gruters this week voted in favor of two bills that appeared to target Disney. One will eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District and other special districts next summer. Another one closes a carve-out for Disney Plus in a law regulating social media companies.
The Sarasota Republican, who also chairs the Republican Party of Florida, has long had a strong relationship with Disney. This year, he even filed an amendment to a bill that would have changed the official state song to “It’s a Small World.” It was withdrawn before consideration
But the Senator defended his votes as appropriate responses to public political decisions taken by Disney in recent weeks.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has warred with Disney since the company criticized a new law critics have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, expanded the call for this week’s Special Session to add the Disney bills. Gruters and other Republican members followed suit, approving the measures.
“I think all conservatives have followed the Governor,” he said. “I had concerns over some of the positions they have come out with, particularly with the parental education rights bill. I think there were some executives from California Disney saying things where they had it all wrong what the bill does. The bill we passed was a good bill.”
He notes the Reedy Creek bill that just passed has an effective date more than a year away. That will allow all parties to review proceedings and decide the best path forward.
Disney through the years has been a major supporter of the Republican Party of Florida, including giving $125,000 at the start of the regular Legislative Session this year.
For Gruters’ part, he doesn’t see any reason for the relationship to change.
“Disney has been a long-time partner of the state of Florida. When you think of Florida, you think of the beaches and of Disney,” he said. “Everyone values that relationship.”
The lesson here, he said, is for Disney to stay out of political debates where they don’t hold a stake.
“I wish that corporations didn’t dive into these battlefields,” he said. “Disney is learning lessons and paying the political price of jumping out there on an issue when I don’t think they were getting good information on what was in the bill.”