Spurred by the Walt Disney Company’s purported support of critical race theory in workplace training and its vocal opposition to a bill banning the teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two bills Friday aimed at punishing the entertainment and tourism giant that has become synonymous with Florida.
DeSantis said he was irked by a Disney statement last month that it would work to repeal HB 1557.
“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California and you’re going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state?” DeSantis said at a bill signing event in Hialeah. “We view that as a provocation and we’re going to fight back against that.”
But DeSantis expanded the scope of the Session on Tuesday, just hours before it began. Lawmakers added legislation stripping Disney of its self-governing status in the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 40-acre enclave that covers its theme park properties in Central Florida. Another bill removed a carve-out for Disney in a Big Tech crackdown law.
In SB 4C, the RDIC is dissolved as of June 1, 2023. The move will shift $1 billion in debt held by the districts to surrounding municipalities, namely, Orange and Osceola counties. Fitch Ratings Inc. has already put RDIC’s bonds on “negative watch,” and warned of a possible downgrade because of the measure.
By signing SB 6C, DeSantis now includes companies that own theme parks in the law he signed last year designed to penalize Big Tech firms that remove users from their platforms without warnings.
DeSantis said he would be justified in signing both bills even if Disney didn’t come out against the parental rights bill, which critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” The Governor cited video conference meetings some of Disney’s executives held with workplace and diversity training experts unearthed by conservative activists in which concepts such as “white guilt,” “white fragility” and, according to DeSantis, “pansexualism” were discussed.
“They were talking about concepts like pansexualism. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know what that means, but I know I don’t want my 5-year-old daughter to be taught it,’” DeSantis said.
“It’s really, really problematic when a company that had been so, so synonymous with parents with young children to, yes come out against the parents’ rights bill, but then to have those videos produced where they’re doing that — I’m just not comfortable having that type of agenda get special treatment in my state.”