Political conflict has sparked in Florida after Governor Ron DeSantis passed legislation taking control of certain services and development for zoning at Walt Disney World, raising concern about public policy and associated political implications with the forthcoming 2024 election.
On Monday, Feb. 27, DeSantis signed a bill to appoint a five-person state board to oversee municipal services at Disney after criticizing the park’s ability to unfairly avoid local rules and building codes.
Public criticism targeted towards DeSantis claims that the bill appears as a form of retaliation against Disney in wake of their opposition to his previous education bill restricting classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation.
DeSantis said in a news conference, “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day,” making it clear that the aims of the newly proposed bill are specifically tailored towards the removal of Disney’s special tax status.
A freshman business administration student agreed with DeSantis, saying, “This brings the rights of education back to the parents rather than school board members who can be influenced by agendas. Disney is very influential in Florida and it is time for them to pay their fair share. If they want to influence the economy and government of Florida, then they need to either stop undermining the state’s policies, or pay their fair share.
The Floridian government has an interest in keeping Disney in state because of the jobs that it makes. It marks an end to Disney’s bailouts because of this. Since Disney’s agenda is changing, the bailouts are coming to an end.”
The creation of Reedy Creek Improvement District was critical in developing Disney because of its receiving of roads, water, electricity, and certain types of police which are used by the park. Disney itself has paid $53 million in yearly taxes as payment towards the debt. However, this ongoing relationship between Disney and DeSantis had its rift during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported by NPR, Disney received criticism from Florida’s conservative base after revising certain films by including disclaimers before movies which could be held as insensitive.
In response, DeSantis said that the actions thereof against Disney were a part of fighting “woke indoctrination” and that Disney overstepped in the state when its CEO, Bob Chapek, said that he would support the removal of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Matthew Boyle, a sophomore communication student, said, “I feel like it’s coming from a place where it’s petty. They’re taking away the special rights to Disney because of something that a CEO said…To any self-respecting person of the LGBTQ community, why would you want to vote against somebody who is trying to suppress the very thing that you live to do? Why should that be something that we bar our children from? It’s not trying to indoctrinate people or join a cult, it’s not propaganda to bring people into the LGBTQ community. It’s to make people who may be a part of it and unaware make them realize who they are. It’s not trying to take away from anyone, it’s about giving a space to people who are trying to be themselves.”
This conflict also comes in the midst of both legislative battles in Florida and the prospect and expectation within American media and politics that DeSantis is likely to run for president.
So far, DeSantis has performed strongly in the polls per reported approval for potential RNC candidates. He comes in at 30 percent, trailing slightly behind former President Donald Trump at 40 percent.
As a result, attention has been drawn to certain political figures, such as DeSantis, given the controversial nature of politics in Florida and its national implications concerning censorship, along with the relationship that companies have with local and state governments.
However, the 2024 presidential election is undergoing a different pace of political development compared to prior elections; for Trump, among other to-be-named Republican candidates, this means that DeSantis, before announcing a potential run, is taking up Republican spotlight which is helpful for a potential bid for the presidency.
This was represented in a recent Quinnipiac University poll showing that out of twelve names, DeSantis made it into the four most notable, sizing up with other candidates such as Trump and Nikki Haley.
This recent conflict between DeSantis and Disney comes at a time full of political tension due to the elections down the road into 2024, adding an extra layer of interest for those who live in Florida and those with their eyes on the coming election.