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Disney government dissolution bill signed by DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA (AP) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Friday to dissolve the private government Walt Disney World controls on its property in the state, punishing the entertainment giant for opposing a new law.

The move is expected to have huge tax implications for Disney and further sour the relationship between the Republican-led government and a major political player whose theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

For DeSantis, the attack on Disney is the latest front in a culture war waged over policies involving race and the coronavirus, battles he has harnessed to make himself one of the most popular Republicans in the country and a likely 2024 presidential candidate.

The law would eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the 55-year-old Disney government is known, as well as a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. The measure does allow for the districts to be re-established, leaving an avenue to renegotiate the future of the deal that allows the company to provide services such as zoning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure.

DeSantis said on Friday that the company would end up paying more taxes than it currently does and that the law isn’t expected to cause tax increases for residents around Disney. He gave no additional details.

Disney is one of Florida’s biggest private employers, last year saying it had more than 60,000 workers in the state. It is not immediately clear how the company or local governments around its properties would be affected if the district was dissolved.

The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and the control it gave Disney over 27,000 acres in Florida, was a crucial element in the company’s plans to build near Orlando in the 60’s. Company officials said they needed autonomy to plan a futuristic city along with the theme park. The city never materialised, however; instead, it morphed into the Epcot theme park.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addresses the crowd at Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School in Hialeah Gardens, Florida. PHOTO: AP
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