Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed into law legislation that would eliminate the Walt Disney Co.’s special self-governing status in the area around its Orlando theme parks, in a move widely seen as retaliation against the company for criticizing a new education law signed by the Republican governor.
The bill revokes Disney’s special tax privileges in the state which have been in place since the late 1960s.
“They have the ability to build a nuclear power plant without state consent if they want,” DeSantis said Friday. “No individual or no company in Florida is treated this way, and it’s not right to have this similar treatment but you know they had exercised a lot of power over the years.”
NBC News has reached out to Disney for comment.
DeSantis began targeting Disney, one of the state’s largest employers, after company executives criticized him for signing a bill that prevents classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through the third grade.
Republicans in the Florida Legislature responded swiftly by passing a bill that would remove Disney’s special tax status on June 1, 2023.
The Florida House passed the bill on Thursday after DeSantis called on the Legislature to back the measure during its special session this week.
House lawmakers passed the bill in a 68-38 vote after the Senate’s 23-16 vote on Wednesday.
Advocacy groups lashed out at DeSantis, who's eyeing a White House bid in 2024, after he signed the bill targeting Disney.
“Governor DeSantis is wielding the power of the state to punish businesses simply for not falling in line with his brutal and discriminatory attacks,” Joni Madison, interim president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “It’s simply another example of Gov. DeSantis’s attempts to tell people what to say, how to teach, what they can learn, what they can believe, and who they can be, and shows that Gov. DeSantis is prioritizing attacking LGBTQ+ people over the well-being of his state.”
After DeSantis signed Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, referred to by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced that his company would pause all political donations in the state.
Disney itself has faced criticism from employees and advocates over its initial response to the bill.
“It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights. You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry,” Chapek said in a letter to employees last month.
DeSantis on Friday also approved measures like the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” which restricts how race issues are discussed in the classroom, and a new congressional reapportionment map. The state’s Republican-controlled Legislature approved the map on Thursday, after DeSantis vetoed state lawmakers' preferred maps earlier this year.