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New Florida Bill Targets Disney, Could Have Severe Consequences for Local Taxpayers

Florida legislature votes on bill that would revoke Disney's legal arrangement to act as its own government, but dissolving Disney's special district would leave local communities with a big tab and heavy burden.

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Florida legislature passed a bill on Thursday that would dissolve Disney's current legal arrangement that grants it governmental authority over the districts in and surrounding the theme park. The bill seems to come in part as retaliation in response to Disney's voiced opposition to the state's Parental Rights in Education Law — coined by some as the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Disney CEO, Bob Chapek, announced that the company would cease any political donations to Florida in response to the bill, which prompted acute dismay from DeSantis himself. "Disney and other woke corporations won't get away with peddling their unchecked pressure campaigns any longer," DeSantis wrote in a fundraising email. "If we want to keep the Democrat machine and their corporate lapdogs accountable, we have to stand together now."

Related: Disney Employees Walk Out in Response to Florida Anti-LGBTQ Bill

The bill, which is a little over a page and offers minimal detail, states that any special district created before November 1968 will be dissolved, effective June 1, 2023.

Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District, created in May 1967, gives Disney governmental control over the land in and around the theme park. The district spans over about 25,000 acres in the Orange and Osceola counties of southwest Orlando, and essentially grants the company authority to self-govern and tax itself. By dissolving Disney's Reedy Creek, Orange and Osceola counties would become responsible for all assets and liabilities, as well as covering the local services currently provided by Reedy Creek.

Beyond the risk of higher taxes is the outstanding bond liabilities (of which Reedy Creek has more than $1 billion) that would be transferred to the local governments if the special district is dissolved.

Richard Foglesong, the author of the book Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando, spoke to CNN about the severe ramifications this bill could have on the surrounding Orlando communities. "Somebody is still going to have to pay for the bonds that were purchased in order to build that infrastructure. A lot of roadways. Someone is going to have to do those building inspections. It'll take a lot of those inspectors with a lot of expertise," Foglesong says. "Someone is going to have to pay for that. If that burden falls on taxpayers, that's not going to look good for Gov. Desantis. This is going to look like folly."

Related: 10 Walt Disney Quotes That Could Boost Your Small Business

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