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South Florida leaders react to DeSantis taking aim at Disney’s special privileges

BOCA RATON, Fla. — To say that Disney is synonymous with employment and tourism in Florida is an understatement.

Peter Ricci, the director of Florida Atlantic University’s hospitality and tourism management, said the two are intertwined.

“It’s the largest single employer in the state, and it’s brought in untold billions of dollars since its opening in 1971,” he said.

Yet, instead of legislators focusing on congressional maps during a special session this week, DeSantis has now added canceling Disney’s privilegesspecifically the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

“I am announcing today we are expanding the call,” DeSantis said.

The special taxing district gives Disney authority to essentially act as a county government on its land. House Bill 3C would kill the more than 50-year-old agreement in June 2023.

Ricci said he sees both sides of the argument.

“The special exemptions and status that they have were probably very valid in the day to get them on the map and not so valid anymore from the eyes of the political side of it in the eyes of the legislators,” he said.

Some legislators say DeSantis’s move is retaliation for Disney taking a stand against Bill HB 1557 or as it’s widely known “Don’t Say Gay” signed earlier this year. The new law bans instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in Kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

“This is the governor’s way of reprisal,” Rep. Geraldine Thompson said.

While Representative Randy Fine who sponsors the bill disagrees.

“I think that Disney has forgotten that they are a guest in our state. A California company needs to respect Florida values ​​if they want to do business there,” he said.

Ricci went on to say this entire situation is very interested that any governor on either side of the aisle would take a stance on something like this, considering there are far more pressing issues at hand.

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