On Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered an investigation into a recent move by Walt Disney World’s special planning and tax district to maintain corporate power over the land housing its popular theme parks.
In a Monday letter, DeSantis called on Florida’s chief inspector general to investigate whether Disney and its closely aligned special district broke the law by approving new rules undermining the Republican governor’s proposed takeover. The takeover is widely viewed as retaliation after Disney opposed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law — one of multiple DeSantis-signed bills limiting speech in both the public and private sectors.
“These collusive and self-dealing arrangements aim to nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians,” DeSantis wrote.
Earlier this year, the Florida legislature, at DeSantis’ direction, passed a bill stripping leadership of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special entity providing Disney overwhelming government-like control over the land housing its parks. But weeks before the new DeSantis-appointed members were set to take control of the district’s board, leadership approved a declaration granting Disney “prior review and comment” over proposed property changes.
As he’s prepped for an expected 2024 presidential run, DeSantis has spent the better part of a year targeting Disney and other corporations his administration has deemed “woke.” DeSantis removed Disney’s special tax status after Disney issued a statement calling for the repeal of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bars teachers from talking to primary school children about gender identity and sexuality.
Since then, there’s been a heated back-and-forth between Disney and DeSantis, something the governor has leveraged as a key part of his campaign platform. His call for an investigation came shortly after Disney CEO Bob Iger blasted the DeSantis administration’s attacks against the company as “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
“The company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do,” Iger told shareholders in a meeting Monday, according to CNN. “The governor got very angry about the position that Disney took, and it seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us… in effect to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right.”