Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made good on Republican threats to retaliate against The Walt Disney Company for opposing the state’s recently-passed “Don’t Say Gay” law. On Friday, DeSantis signed a bill that revokes a 55-year-old statue that allows Disney to essentially operate as its own private government in certain districts. State Republicans had threatened the action in late March, and it appears that DeSantis has followed through with it despite warnings that it could have serious tax implications. Specifically, leaving Florida residents on the hook for a $1 billion “debt bomb” to cover the taxes that Disney will no longer collect on itself.
Reedy Creek has bond liabilities of between $1 billion and $1.7 billion, according to the district’s financial filings. Under Florida statute, if Reedy Creek is dissolved, those liabilities are transferred to the local governments — either Bay Lake or Lake Buena Vista, or more likely, Orange and Osceola counties.
State Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, tried to amend the bill to include further study of the bond debt, but the amendment failed on a voice vote.
In a nutshell, legislators and tax experts have warned that if Republicans eliminate the special government provision, they’ll basically be shooting the state in the foot. Clearly, the state GOP doesn’t care. In addition to the massive tax implications, legal experts have been weighing in that the state may have handed Disney lawyers a First Amendment case on a silver platter.
Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez added to that theory during a recent appearance on Newsmax where she openly admitted that if Disney gives up its “woke agenda,” the state would allow the entertainment giant to keep its private government status. This sparked numerous reactions on social media that the state just openly confessed to “extortion.”
Florida’s lieutenant governor openly saying that state policy toward Disney is conditional on how Disney exercises (or doesn’t) its free-speech rights.
Tell me again how conservatives care so much about free speech. https://t.co/MlqvUH7B2D
— James Surowiecki (@JamesSurowiecki) April 21, 2022
So, they’re admitting to extortion? Bold move. https://t.co/UmId0oUztt
— Shannon 🌻 (@shay3322) April 22, 2022
The government, on the television: I am targeting a private company because of its criticism of us. https://t.co/hei5Uujj4S
— Hannah (@hannahposts) April 21, 2022
When you are creating your opponents’ legal case for them. https://t.co/GydRPswl40
— So There I Was… (@HercNav130) April 21, 2022
Disney's lawyers are gonna have a field day with this quid-pro-quo lawsuit.
Wonder what Disney is gonna do with their new state? https://t.co/xzreWq6tm1
— Crystal Frasier (@AmazonChique) April 22, 2022
Oh my god she admit it.gif https://t.co/f1yFHEmAON
— Ashley Schapitl (@AshleySchapitl) April 21, 2022
And now it’s on tape: DeSantis is violating the first amendment as it applies to Disney which Citizens United made a person. https://t.co/4TxayBGDaA
— Brienne of Snark🏳️🌈 (@BrienneOfSnark_) April 21, 2022
Disney's lawyers are going to win this case in record time. https://t.co/QKZOnzHywY
— Zandar, Pro Tarnished (@ZandarVTS) April 21, 2022
So… yeah. This is all going to get weird and ugly. Which it already is. But, like, more weird and ugly.