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DeSantis says lawmakers will target Disney’s special district

A statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse stand near the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom...
A statue of Walt Disney and Micky Mouse stand near the Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Jan. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 11:31 AM EDT
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THE VILLAGES, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says lawmakers kicking off a special session Tuesday at the state capital to consider a new congressional map will also look at terminating special districts in the state established prior to 1968.

Those include the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has allowed Walt Disney World to govern itself since moving into Florida more than 50 years ago, DeSantis said at a press conference in The Villages.

The Florida Legislature established the special district in 1967. Reedy Creek acts “with the same authority and responsibility as a county government,” according to its website.

“Disney is in control of everything from construction zoning, building codes and fire department services to controlling its own electricity, roads and water,” according to an analysis by Forbes. Terminating the special district would surrender that control to county and state governments.

The move comes after Gov. DeSantis has publicly clashed with the Disney company over legislation curbing discussion of sexual and gender orientation in Florida public schools, a measure critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The company initially remained silent on the legislation, but after pushback from employees issued a statement saying the bill should never have been passed.

“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,” the statement read.

The law bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3, or at any grade level in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.

Critics argue the law’s language, particularly the phrases “classroom instruction” and “age-appropriate,” could be interpreted so broadly that discussion in any grade could trigger lawsuits, creating a classroom atmosphere where teachers would avoid the subjects entirely.

The governor and his allies have repeatedly described the rules as reasonable, saying children should learn about sexual orientation and gender identity from their parents, not in schools.

They point to polls showing most people in Florida support the restriction on instruction for younger students.

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