- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Friday stripping Disney of its self-governing status.
- He recently signed a controversial education law and proposed a GOP-benefitting redistricting map.
- A top Florida legislator said the Disney bill diverts attention from the state’s redistricting plan.
A top state legislator in Florida said he believes there’s an ulterior motive behind Gov. Ron Desantis stripping Disney of its special tax status in an ongoing feud over the state’s controversial education law dubbed by advocates and critics the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
On Friday, DeSantis signed a bill into law that would sunset a special taxing and governance area — in which the landowners are primarily Walt Disney World — known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District by June 2023.
But Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer told Insider that DeSantis’ public dispute with Disney is taking attention away from other legislative agendas the Florida governor has been putting forth — namely, the new proposed redistricting map that would give the GOP an edge in the state at the expense of Black voters.
“Governor DeSantis’ attack on Disney was designed to act as a smokescreen for the much more devious original and singular purpose of this special session, the passage of a racist and unconstitutional redistricting plan,” Farmer said.
The dissolution bill came after Disney denounced the state’s controversial Parental Rights in Education legislation. In a statement on March 28, the company vowed to actively work to repeal the legislation, saying it “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.”
In response, DeSantis said Disney “crossed the line” with their calls to repeal the legislation, saying “this state is governed by the interests of the people of the state of Florida” not “on the demands of California corporate executives.”
During a press conference at the bill signing on Friday, DeSantis said the state legislature viewed the company’s denouncing as a “provocation.”
“You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re gonna marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state,” DeSantis said. “We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back against that.”
His sentiments were echoed by Lt. Gov Jeanette Nuñes. On Thursday, Newsmax host Eric Bolling asked Nuñes if the governor would reconsider repealing Disney’s special tax status if the company gave up its “‘woke’ agenda,'” to which she replied: “Sure.”
Moving to dissolve Reedy Creek marks a third legislative win for DeSantis
Aside from implementing the state’s controversial education law and subsequently punishing Disney for speaking out against the legislation, DeSantis has had a string of legislative wins, including pushing a redistricting map that would reduce the number of predominantly Black districts.
On March 28, the same day DeSantis signed the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill into law, DeSantis vetoed a version of the congressional map approved by state legislators that would have added two Republican seats and subtracted one from the Democrats, according to The New York Times.
On Wednesday, the Florida Senate passed DeSantis’ congressional map during a special session that would instead create 20 likely Republican seats and leave eight for Democrats, The Times reported.
DeSantis claimed that the existence of such districts have been “racially gerrymandered,” adding that the new congressional map put out by his office would be “race-neutral.”
“I mean, we are not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divvies up people based on the color of their skin,” DeSantis said, per CNN. “That is wrong. That is not the way we’ve governed in the state of Florida.”
Despite the larger political implications and ramifications of DeSantis’ redistricting plan, Farmer said the governor waging a war on Disney has been diverting media attention from the new proposed congressional map.
“On the same day that this anti-Disney measure passed, the Legislature also rammed through an unconstitutional, unlawful, and racist redistricting plan that slashed Florida’s Black representation in Congress in half,” Farmer said.
He added: “No one really expects this Reedy Creek dissolution to actually happen, but the threat of sending the rights of Black voters back 50 years into the past is very, very real, that is what we all should be talking about today.”
Representatives for DeSantis did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.