Ron DeSantis claims victory over Disney World in row over reviled Don’t Say Gay law

Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, has claimed victory over Walt Disney World in Florida in his ongoing battle to uphold his devastating Don’t Say Gay law.

Both houses of the Florida state legislature have backed a change in state law, giving DeSantis the power to appoint the members of the board that oversees the development of the Walt Disney World Resort.

He sought to take a hold of the board after Disney denounced his Don’t Say Gay law, but it’s by no means the big win originally envisaged by the Republican.

It’s widely been seen as the Republicans retaliating against Disney, after the global media conglomerate publicly opposed DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay law last year.

The bill to strip Disney’s self-governing rights was tabled just weeks after The Walt Disney Company issued a statement saying the Don’t Say Gay law “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law”.

The original bill aimed to completely dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), which is what gives Walt Disney World its self-governing powers.

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However, as reported by The Guardian, this was changed last week because it would have meant taxpayers in neighbouring districts would have to pick up some service costs, such as emergency services and road maintenance, as well as its debt of about $1billion (£814million).

Instead, the law change voted for leaves the district in place but with DeSantis set to choose who replaces the five-person board.

Speaking ahead of the law change, DeSantis, who is seen as a contender for the presidency in the 2024 election, said: “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

The alterations mean that Disney has to honour its own debts instead of any being passed on to other districts.

This is ultimately because the RCID will not be dissolved any more (but Ron DeSantis will change its name), meaning Disney retains its special tax status.

The New York Times has reported that having the governor appoint the district’s controlling board could leave Disney vulnerable to being forced into paying to fund roads outside the district, as well as increased construction costs inside.

In a statement, via the newspaper, Walt Disney World Resort president Jeff Vahle said the company was “ready to work within this new framework”.

He added: We will continue to innovate, inspire and bring joy to the millions of guests who come to Florida to visit Walt Disney World each year.”

Florida’s democrat senator, Jason Pizzo, told the Tampa Bay Times having the law not go as far as originally proposed showed Ron DeSantis’ corporate donors “overstepped” by picking on the “biggest corporate partner in the state”.

The outlet highlighted that one of the governor’s top donors, Ken Griffin, last year told the Milken Institute Global Conference: “I don’t appreciate DeSantis going after Disney’s tax status. It can be portrayed, or feel, or look like retaliation.”

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