St. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Toward the end of a news conference in Ponte Vedra Beach on Thursday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis commented on the possibility that state lawmakers could move to repeal the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act over Disney’s stated and financial opposition to the recently signed “Parental Rights in Education” law.
DeSantis said that a potential repeal of the act would not be made purely in retaliation over Disney’s behavior but could instead be part of a larger effort to strip the corporation of what the governor called “special privileges.”
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“I would not say that that’d be retaliatory. I mean, the way I view it is, you know, there are certain entities that have exerted a lot of influence through corporate means to generate special privileges in the law,” DeSantis said. “I don’t think we should have special privileges in the law at all.”
The law, known as HB 1557 and colloquially as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, forbids the discussion and instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity in K-3 classrooms, prohibiting the same in later grades if not done in an “age appropriate” manner.
As the bill neared DeSantis’ desk earlier in March, multiple protests were organized to call on Disney to do what it could to speak out against the legislation and halt its momentum in the Florida legislature.
HB 1557 eventually made it to the governor’s to-do pile, prompting Disney CEO Bob Chapek to apologize to his employees for not being a “stronger ally” to them, saying that the bill represents “yet another challenge to basic human rights.” It was then that Chapek announced Disney would immediately pause all political donations in Florida.
After DeSantis signed the bill, Disney issued a statement March 28 that said its new goal as a company was “for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts,” promising to support organizations working to make such a thing happen.
Statement from The Walt Disney Company on signing of Florida legislation: pic.twitter.com/UVI7Ko3aKS— Walt Disney Company (@WaltDisneyCo) March 28, 2022
The statement was followed March 30 by a tweet from Rep. Spencer Roach, R-District 79, claiming that two meetings had already been held among Florida lawmakers to discuss a repeal of the Reedy Creek act, which established Walt Disney World’s own government within areas of Orange and Osceola counties.
“If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County,” Roach said.
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
At the conference Thursday, DeSantis did not elaborate on the potential for a repeal of the Reedy Creek act beyond denying that it would be retaliation for Disney’s stance on HB 1557. Instead, the governor brought up SB 7072, the “Social Media Platforms” bill he signed into law in May 2021.
The idea behind the bill, DeSantis said, was to allow people to sue companies such as Twitter and Facebook for “big tech censorship,” as well as to protect political candidates from being de-platformed, yet the governor claimed an “11th hour” change to the text of the bill served to protect theme parks from such legal avenues.
“The legislature slips in a provision (to) that law that said, if you operate a theme park, it doesn’t apply to you. And that was meant solely to protect Disney. And I opposed that when it happened,” DeSantis said.
Instead of vetoing the bill, however, the governor said his signing of the legislation was an example of “the one time they (Disney) got something” during his time in office.
[VIDEO BELOW: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs Parental Rights Bill into law]
“I had to make a decision. Do I veto? Do I throw the baby out with the bathwater and veto the entire bill?... I didn’t think it was worth doing. But if you look at like a provision like that, repeal that, that shouldn’t be there anyways,” DeSantis said.
The governor suggested that any “special privileges in the law” be reevaluated in Florida, but did not announce any specific action to that effect.
“I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve got so far over their skis on this on this parental rights stuff, because I think they’re used to having their way and they’re not used to having people that will stand in their way and say, ‘Actually, the state of Florida is going to be governed by the best interest of the people in Florida,’” DeSantis said. “You know, we’re certainly not going to bend a knee to woke executives in California. That is not the way the state’s going to be run.”
At a news conference later Thursday in West Palm Beach, DeSantis reiterated that he wanted these “special privileges” gone.
”You should not have one organization that is able to dictate policy in all these different realms, and they have done that for many, many years. And if that stops now, which it should, that would be a good thing for Florida,” DeSantis said.