The spat between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Walt Disney Co DIS.N, which started when the media giant criticised a state law on sexual identity last year, has escalated to include control of municipal services at its theme parks.
On Wednesday, during a Twitter Spaces conversation with business magnate Elon Musk, DeSantis will make his presidential campaign announcement.
Here’s an explainer on the fight with Disney.
HOW DID THIS SITUATION START?
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as its detractors refer to it, was a legislative campaign led by DeSantis in Florida last year to restrict classroom discussion of sexuality and gender issues for younger pupils. At the time, Bob Chapek, then-CEO of Disney, criticised the initiative.
In response, DeSantis urged the legislature to eliminate a special district that effectively granted Disney complete control over the construction of its theme parks in central Florida.
WHAT WAS THAT SPECIAL TAXING DISTRICT AND WHY WAS IT SET UP?
The Reedy Creek Improvement District was established in 1967 by the Florida State Legislature to encourage the construction of Walt Disney World on a 38.5-square-mile plot of land. The district Disney paid taxes to offered municipal services and exempted it from some rules.
WHAT WAS THE LEGISLATION FLORIDA SIGNED?
DeSantis requested that the Reedy Creek Improvement District be disbanded in April 2022, and the Republican-controlled legislature did so in a special session. In February 2023, Florida lawmakers took up the matter again, depriving Disney of its unique status as a self-governing entity and giving DeSantis the power to create a new tourist board to oversee the region.
HOW DID DISNEY RESPOND?
Disney pushed through revisions to the special tax district agreement in February 2023 that limit the board’s ability to act for decades before the takeover by DeSantis appointees. DeSantis vowed to thwart those initiatives.
The business sued DeSantis in April, requesting that a federal court invalidate state attempts to exercise more control over the Walt Disney World theme parks.
WHAT DID DESANTIS SAY HE WOULD DO?
DeSantis floated the notion of building a state prison in the area when he indicated the newly created tourism board could increase inspections of Disney’s rides, add more toll roads or develop the area in other ways in the middle of April. Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, referred to the governor’s action as “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
DeSantis also disregarded Disney’s legal actions. Additionally, the district board he appointed earlier this month countersued the business.
WHAT DID DISNEY DO IN ITS LAWSUIT?
Disney filed a lawsuit against DeSantis and the members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board he recently appointed in a federal court in Tallahassee, alleging that the state’s actions violated the terms of its contract with the company and that DeSantis is trying to limit its First Amendment rights. The business is requesting that Florida’s legislative action be ruled unconstitutional by the court.
WHAT RECENT ACTIONS DID DISNEY TAKE?
In light of its current legal dispute with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Disney abandoned plans to construct a nearly $1 billion corporate campus in central Florida that would have housed 2,000 employees, according to a May 18 story from Reuters.
HOW DO VOTERS FEEL ABOUT THE DESANTIS VS. DISNEY BATTLE?
In a Reuters/Ipsos poll from April, 44% of Republican participants indicated they had a more positive opinion of DeSantis as a result of the conflict with Disney. But 73% of respondents, including 82% of Democrats and 63% of Republicans, said they were less likely to supporting a political candidate who supports legislation that targets businesses for their political or cultural beliefs.