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Florida Senate passes bill to strip Disney's special self-governing status

The Florida House still has to vote on the measure, which would dissolve the special taxing district that allows Disney to operate much like a local government.
Image: Walt Disney World
Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Arturo Holmes / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would dissolve the special taxing district that allows the Walt Disney Co. to self-govern in its theme park area.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled chamber backed the measure in a 23-16 vote. It now requires a vote in the state House before it can go to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called on the Legislature to support the bill during the special session this week.

The legislation would dismantle Disney's special district on June 1, 2023. The special status, which was granted by a state law in 1967, allows Disney to self-govern by collecting taxes and providing emergency services. Disney controls about 25,000 acres in the Orlando area, and the district allows the company to build new structures and pay impact fees for such construction without the approval of a local planning commission.

The effort to eliminate Disney's district, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, comes after DeSantis began targeting the corporation over its leaders' criticism of legislation he recently signed that would prevent classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through the third grade.

DeSantis has hinted in the last few weeks that he wants to do away with Disney's protections, saying he doesn’t “support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful.”

Separately, the Senate also voted 24-15 on Wednesday to pass a measure that would remove Disney's exemption in a 2021 law about big tech censorship.