The Florida Legislature passed a bill repealing Disney’s special tax status

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The Republican-led Florida Legislature on Thursday passed a bill to repeal Walt Disney World’s special tax district in the state, which has a multi – billion dollar impact on the company and the communities surrounding the theme park.

The House vote came 48 hours after Governor Ron Desantis (R) called on lawmakers to repeal the 55-year rule. This led to weeks of public animosity between DeSantis and Disney over the company’s opposition to regulating Florida law. How academics Discuss LGBTQ issues in the classroom.

The bill was passed immediately in the party hierarchy without any discussion, and its impact is not yet clear. A legislative staff analysis of the project was only one and a half pages long, and stakeholders did not have time to do their own analyzes, including the districts that own the vast Disney entertainment complex.

“People are definitely worried. This is going to be a huge hindrance in our community and no one is likely to figure out exactly what it will be like,” said Delegate Anna Eskamani (D), who owns a Disney property in Florida. Reflects. “

Disney employs nearly 80,000 people in Florida, the world’s most popular theme park. Its creation has helped attract other locations to the region, transforming the community of orange groves into a growing tourism industry, with an estimated economic impact of more than $ 75 billion a year.

Even Republican supporters said they were surprised the bill passed so quickly. Representative. Spencer Roche (R) said he planned to introduce a similar bill next year, but “Here comes Governor Desantis.”

“The truth is, we’re really able to touch the politically untouchable Disney,” Roche said. “Ron Desantis, whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that his political instincts are good and elegant. I commend the Governor for having the courage to put this on the agenda. ”

Disantis began a feud with Walt Disney almost a month ago, when CEO Bob Sobeck issued a statement. Critical report Called a Parental Rights Act Prohibits discussions Gender issues in public school classes up to third grade and up to high school. Since then, Desantis has slammed what he describes as an “awakening ideology” in the company.

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Earlier this week, the governor issued a proclamation calling for the cancellation of the 1967 agreement that allowed the company to become its own local government on the 40-square-mile property that Walt Disney purchased a decade ago. The Ready Creek Improvement District allows Disney to bypass local building codes and other regulations, and is responsible for public services such as fire and rescue, sewage treatment and road maintenance.

The bill to dismantle the special district will not come into force until June 2023, which will give Disney and lawmakers an off-ramp. “This is a repeal bill,” Roche said. “It simply came to our notice then. Let’s see what happens next.

Disney did not comment on the law. The organization, which has donated millions of dollars to politicians in Florida, mostly Republicans, stopped donations in the state after the passage of the Parental Rights Bill.

Hours after the move was passed by council, Disantis press secretary Christina Pusha attacked Disney’s opposition on Twitter, calling critics of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, “Disney is a company that has created a family-friendly brand for generations. He threw it indescribably into arguing for teaching about ‘sexism’.

Disantis used his opposition to Disney this week as a fundraising theme, writing in an email: “Friend, I will never allow Awake companies to strengthen our state.”

State Sen. Victor Torres (D), who covers the district that includes Osceola County where Disney’s headquarters are located, said he thinks the company could reconsider its approach to political participation. “I think it will open their eyes, let them see it, you know what? Maybe we’ve paid the wrong people,” he said.

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Other Democrats echoed those predictions. “The bodies of those who opposed Disney are scattered in the fields of Florida,” said Steve Keller, a Democrat and former state representative. “Disney is certainly the biggest boss in the state. It’s politically very powerful.

In the course of the campaign, Democrats vowed to use intrigue against Desantis. At a campaign event in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, Rep. Charlie Crist, who led the race for governor of the August Democratic primary, lashed out at both Disney and Republican lawmakers for accepting his demands so easily.

Christ, who served as Florida’s governor from 2007 to 2011, said the feud with Disney was proving that the governor “only cares about himself.”

“I can not believe he’s doing it. I really can not. This is a company in our state, this is a company in our country,” Christ said, describing how his parents first took him and his siblings to Disney World in the early 1970s. Very happy place. I do not think this is the happiest place on earth with this governor. The Republican governor is leading the referendum and has raised more than $ 100 million for his election campaign.

Local business owners, who cater to tourists brought in by Disney and other theme parks, are unsure whether the new law will affect them.

Rawlwen Bennett, who owns the Bronze Kingdom Art Gallery on International Drive, Orlando’s busiest tourist area, said it was “thrilling” to see Descentis and Republican lawmakers targeting a particular business. He added, “Even if you agree with the government’s position, you should not accept revenge against Disney.”

The Biden administration, which opposed the parental rights bill, on Thursday also condemned the Disney law, saying critics say the LGBTQ could harm young people. “We oppose the governor’s action because a company opposed the bill,” said White House spokeswoman Karen Jean-Pierre.

Republicans in Tallahassee said local communities could benefit from the dismantling of Disney County. Senator Wilton Simpson (R) called it an “economic boon” for Central Florida. “I do not know how the result will come, but I know it is a very worthwhile process that we are undertaking and I think everything that comes out of it will be better than what we have today,” he said.

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But local officials say they will have to raise property taxes instead if they are forced to acquire public services such as road maintenance performed by Disney. Disney is estimated to have $ 1 billion in debt and more than $ 160 million a year to spend on public services, which will be transferred to local governments when Reedy Creek is officially dissolved next year.

“If we had to take the first response as public safety elements of Ready Creek without new revenue, it would be disastrous for our budget in Orange County,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. “This would place an unnecessary burden on other taxpayers in Orange County to fill that gap.”

Demings said he had no idea what that relationship would eventually be like; District staff were still exploring the language in the bill and trying to feel the impact. He said it was “obvious” that lawmakers were carrying out political revenge. “The devil is in the details,” he said. “We have no details today.”

Aubrey Jewett, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, said he hopes Disney will do its best to ensure a smooth transition if Reedy Creek’s services are now forced to use other providers.

“That being said, all they can do is not enough,” he said. “If you’ve been accustomed to operating in one way for more than 50 years and then change it, even the best companies and well-run companies and well-meaning companies may face unexpected difficulties in providing services.”

Eric Adelson in Orlando contributed to this report.

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