ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Reedy Creek Improvement District—created by state lawmakers in 1967—acts as Walt Disney World’s own government with two cities and land in Orange and Osceola counties.
“In effect, they’re their own city out there. They can zone the way they want. They can do things the way they want. They can even build a nuclear power plant if they want,” News 6 political analyst Jim Clark said.
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Those rights are now being discussed among some Florida lawmakers who are thinking about repealing the Reedy Creek Improvement Act of 1967.
“I think that this is a feud that is escalating into a war between Florida Republicans and the Disney corporation which is the largest single-site employer in Florida,” Clark said.
The apparent feud started after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, according to Clark.
The law — which has been the subject of controversy, sparking protests around Walt Disney World after the company did not initially publicly condemn it — bans discussions on sexual identity in Florida classrooms in kindergarten through third grade and requires such conversations to be “age-appropriate” in successive grades, though the law does not define “age-appropriate.”
“For Disney to come out and put a statement and say that the bill should have never passed and that they are going to actively work to repeal it, I think, one was fundamentally dishonest but, two I think that crossed the line,” DeSantis said Tuesday.
This response came a day before Florida House Rep. Spencer Roach tweeted that legislators held two meetings in the past week to discuss repealing the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act.
Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government. If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County. pic.twitter.com/6sj29Gj6Wz— SpencerRoach (@SpencerRoachFL) March 30, 2022
“Disney has been extremely generous with Republican politicians in Florida. They give about $200,000 a year, including $12,000 to the state representative who is stirring this up,” Clark told News 6. “It would be a disaster for Disney. One of the reasons they came here in the mid-60s was the legislature’s promise that they could have self-government.”
Richard Foglesong, a retired Rollins College political science professor and the author of Married to the Mouse, said he believes talks of revoking the act is just a way of the Republican party showing what they stand for, but no real change will come out of those discussions.
“If you ask me whether it’s politically possible to take these privileges away from the Disney company, I don’t think so,” Foglesong said. “I think that cooler minds will prevail and that this is really a shot across the bow to try to bring the Disney company, Mickey Mouse if you will, into line with Governor DeSantis. I thought it was more of March Madness of the political kind, the thought that the Republican Party, which used to be the party of business, would want to take on of their biggest donors.”
News 6 reached out to Reedy Creek Improvement District and its spokesperson responded they have no comment at this time. A request for an interview with Rep. Spencer Roach was forwarded to his office but they have not yet replied.