DeSantis signs bill stripping Disney of self governing status

Disney held the self governing status for more than 50 years

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure into law on Friday evening that dissolves Walt Disney World’s special governing power in the state after the company announced public opposition to a new parental rights law in the state.

At the bill signing ceremony, DeSantis said Disney lied about the content of the state's new "Parental Rights in Education" law, and he viewed the company’s vow to fight it as unacceptable.

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"You’re a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you’re gonna marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state. We view that as a provocation, and we’re going to fight back against that," DeSantis said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks at the 2022 CPAC conference at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando on February 24, 2022.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks at the 2022 CPAC conference at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando on February 24, 2022. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The Florida Senate voted 23-16 Wednesday to remove the status and the Florida House followed suit in a 70-38 vote on Thursday.

The special status, known as The Reedy Creek Improvement Act, was signed into law in May 1967 by Gov. Claude Kirk in response to lobbying efforts by Disney. The entertainment giant proposed building a recreation-oriented development on 25,000 acres of property in a remote area of Central Florida's Orange and Osceola counties, which consisted of 38.5 square miles of largely uninhabited pasture and swampland.

Orange and Osceola County did not have the services or resources needed to bring the project to life, so the state legislature worked with Disney to establish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special taxing district that allows the company to act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government.

Fireworks go off around Cinderella's castle during the grand opening ceremony for Walt Disney World's Fantasyland in Lake Buena Vista, Florida December 6, 2012.

Fireworks go off around Cinderella's castle during the grand opening ceremony for Walt Disney World's Fantasyland in Lake Buena Vista, Florida December 6, 2012. (REUTERS/Scott Audette/File Photo)

Disney released a statement shortly after DeSantis signed the parental rights bill and vowed to help fight the law in court.

"Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," Disney said. "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country."

DeSantis has pushed back against the company multiple times and pledged to oppose the "wokeness" he says the company is promoting.

"Look, there’s policy disputes, and that’s fine," DeSantis said earlier this month, "but when you're trying to impose a woke ideology on our state, we view that as a significant threat."

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek talks during the Opening Ceremony of the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 at ESPN Wide World of Sports on May 8, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek talks during the Opening Ceremony of the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 at ESPN Wide World of Sports on May 8, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Invictus)

"This wokeness will destroy this country if we let it run unabated," DeSantis added. "So in Florida, we take a very big stand against that."

On Thursday, the White House said it opposes efforts by Florida to target Disney.

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"So, our view is this — is that the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is really crystal clear: It’s wrong. That’s our view: It is just wrong," White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a flight to Portland, Oregon, aboard Air Force One. "We oppose the governor taking action against a company because of their opposition to that bill.  And we’re just going to leave it there for now; we’re not going to say anymore to that."

In addition to his signing of the measure targeting Disney, DeSantis also signed into law on Friday a measure dubbed the "Stop WOKE Act" that prohibits critical race theory from being discussed in classrooms and in corporate settings, such as employee trainings.

Introduced by DeSantis last December, the bill known as the "Individual Freedom" measure, prevents schools and corporations from "subjecting any student or employee to training or instruction that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such individual to believe specified concepts constitutes discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin."

Opponents of the academic doctrine known as Critical Race Theory protest outside of the Loudoun County School Board headquarters, in Ashburn, Virginia, U.S.  June 22, 2021.

Opponents of the academic doctrine known as Critical Race Theory protest outside of the Loudoun County School Board headquarters, in Ashburn, Virginia, U.S.  June 22, 2021. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

The Florida Department of Education previously enacted a rule to prevent CRT-inspired content in the state's K-12 schools. DeSantis has emphatically condemned critical race theory — a framework that involves deconstructing aspects of society to discover systemic racism beneath the surface.

"We're here today because we believe in education, not indoctrination," DeSantis said before signing the measure on Friday. "We believe an important component of freedom in the state of Florida is the freedom from having oppressive ideologies opposed upon you without your consent."

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"We are not going to use your tax dollars to teach your kids to hate this country or hate each other," he added.

The new law also removes Disney's carve out in the Big Tech censorship bill.

On Friday, the state of Florida released four examples from textbooks it has rejected from its school system amid concerns over the promotion of Critical Race Theory and common core principles.

Fox News' Andrew Mark Miller, Tyler O'Neil, and The Associated Press contributed to this article.