Florida governor Ron DeSantis takes control of Disney World district

Governor Ron DeSantis has taken over Disney World’s self-governing district in central Florida after the corporation opposed his “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

Since 1967, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, home to the Disney World theme parks, has had its own government to allow infrastructure to be put in place without state approval.

But on Monday, DeSantis signed a bill that will end Disney’s control of Reedy Creek and hand it to the Florida state government. 

The move is viewed as “punishment” for Disney after their former chief executive, Bob Chapek, publicly opposed the Florida governor’s bill that “prevents the teaching of sex and gender identity from kindergarten to the third grade”, said Sky News.

The new bill allows DeSantis to appoint five members to supervise the district. These new members will “be in charge of the district’s long-standing powers to tax, build and borrow money for projects and services”, reported CNN

Martin Garcia, a Tampa-based lawyer whose firm donated $50,000 to DeSantis’s re-election campaign, is one of the governor’s appointees. Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of Moms for Liberty, a conservative organisation, will also be a supervisor. 

Disney is one of Florida’s biggest employers and its single biggset taxpayer. But, as DeSantis put it when speaking at Reedy Creek fire station on Monday: “There’s a new sheriff in town.” 

But while the move was “celebrated by conservative media”, several of DeSantis’s rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination have been critical, said CNN. Former vice-president Mike Pence said the new bill was “beyond the scope of what I as a conservative, limited-government Republican would be prepared to do”, while New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu told CBS News that to punish a company for perceived “woke” business practices set “the worst precedent in the world”. 

The bill is scheduled to take effect in June. In a statement to CNN earlier this month, Jeff Vahle, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, said the company was “ready to work within this new framework”, while continuing to “innovate, inspire and bring joy to millions of guests”.

Disney is playing a waiting game, according to Democratic state senator Jason Pizzo. He told Insider he believes Disney will “challenge the law in court, and then resolve the problem” when DeSantis likely runs for the presidency in 2024.