By Holly Honderich
(BBC) – Florida lawmakers have voted to strip Walt Disney of its special self-governing status amid a political clash between the company and the governor.
The status gave Disney powers to levy tax, build roads and control utilities on the lands of its theme park.
The move is widely seen as retribution for Disney’s opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, it bars primary school teachers from discussing sexual orientation.
On Thursday, at the Republican’s urging, the state House passed a bill that would rid the company of its near-total power over the special district where its theme park is based. It had already passed the Senate.
Known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it was created in a 1967 deal between the state and the Walt Disney Company.
Governor DeSantis had previously made it clear he will sign the measure into law. Following the vote, Disney’s special district will be dissolved on 1 June, 2023.
Disney did not respond for comment.
Its special status had effectively allowed the company to operate as its own municipal government, with its own board of supervisors and fire department, and meant Disney could even build its own airport, or nuclear power plant if desired.
It had given the entertainment giant freedom from almost all bureaucratic intervention for half a century and is thought to have saved it from tens of millions of dollars in taxes and fees.
And it is part of why Disney chose to build its theme parks in Florida, where it has become the state’s largest private employer, with some 80,000 jobs.
But Disney’s special relationship with the state of Florida came under threat over its response to the Parental Rights in Education bill, which Mr DeSantis signed last month.