Tip-for-Tat Between Disney World and the Governor: A Tentative Resolution to The Disney World “Don’t Say Gay” Act
DeSantis’ announcement was the latest in a tit-for-tat between Disney and the governor that started last year when the entertainment giant publicly opposed the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation barring school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. In retaliation, Florida lawmakers passed, and DeSantis signed, legislation reorganizing Disney World’s company-controlled government, allowing the governor to appoint the five members of the Board of Supervisors. The board was under Disney’s control.
DeSantis also said the new board overseeing Disney’s taxing district will meet Wednesday to “make sure Disney is held accountable.” The agenda posted online says the board will consider taking over development oversight within the district and firing existing staff.
The board, which is made up of five DeSantis appointees, will also instruct staff to comply with a state inspector general investigation. DeSantis ordered the probe earlier this month.
New taxes on Disney hotels and tolls around its property were suggested by the state prior to that. It is not clear if those options are still under consideration.
Simon Conway, the host of Good Morning Orlando, asked DeSantis if he would agree to a meeting with Disney CEO Bob Iger to resolve the conflict. Iger said recently that he would be happy to sit down with the governor.
The exemption for Disney parks when it comes to ride inspections by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is going to be removed by the Legislature in the coming months, according to congressman Ron Paul and governor Rick Santorum.
The agriculture agency is responsible for inspecting amusement rides in Florida, but an exception was carved out for the state’s largest theme park operators, such as Disney and Universal Destinations & Experiences, which do their own safety inspections. The proposal ends the exemption for rides at special governmental districts that focus on Disney World.
The kind of rides at Disney do not go beyond county fairs, according to Richard Foglesong, a professor and author of the definitive account of Disney World’s governance.
Disney World is Not a Supermonopoly: The Case of a Vermont Senator Trying to Fool the President and Congress with a Development Agreement
They talked about a development agreement that would void everything we did. “Well, that’s not going to work. That is not going to fly.
The governor also suggested the new board should sell the district’s utility in order to pay down the district’s $1 billion debts and make sure Disney World never again has a mask mandate, as it did after closing and then reopening in the first year of the COVID-19 virus’ spread.
By needing to pass another bill on Disney’s governance, DeSantis and lawmakers may be implicitly acknowledging that the agreement between the previous board and the company was valid, Foglesong said.
Moreover, it’s unusual for a potential Republican presidential candidate to be going after a large corporation and attempting to regulate it more, like DeSantis is to Disney, he said.
“He’s talking like Bernie, the socialist,” said Foglesong, referring to U.S. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “What Republican candidate is talking like this?”