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The Florida governor signs a law that deprives Disney of the city

April 22 (Reuters) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday signed a law that deprives Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N) of self-governing parks in the Orlando area in retaliation for its opposition to a new law that limits LGBTQ teaching problems in schools .

The Republican-dominated legislature on Thursday passed a bill that would repeal the special jurisdiction that allows the company to operate Walt Disney World Resort as its own city. It operates four theme parks, two water parks and 175 miles of roads in an area of ​​25,000 acres.

Disney’s special status “was really an aberration,” DeSantis told a news conference where he signed the law. “No individual or company in Florida is treated this way.”

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Disney did not comment immediately on signing the law.

While the financial impact on society and the state is uncertain, the change could change the way Disney operates its vast empire in Central Florida and disrupt the close relationship it has had with the state for more than 50 years.

The governor said on Friday that Disney would pay more taxes as a result of the law, but did not specify.

DeSantis is a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2024 who courted conservative voters on issues such as immigration, abortion and LGBTQ rights.

With its latest move against Disney, DeSantis is trying to improve its conservative credit by showing its willingness to stand up to what it described as a “awakened” California-based company that does not share Florida values.

Disney originally did not publicly oppose LGBTQ legislation last month, which sparked criticism from the community and some employees. The company later condemned the law, saying it would suspend political donations in Florida until reviewed.

The law, which critics called “don’t say gay,” prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for kindergarten children up to the third grade. DeSantis supported the measure by giving parents more control over their children’s education.

Security officers operate the entrance to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, USA on June 13, 2016. REUTERS / Barbara Liston / File Photo

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Opponents call it a thinly veiled attempt to marginalize gay and transgender students or children of queer parents.

At a fundraiser in Seattle on Thursday, President Joe Biden considered a clash between Disney and Florida Republicans. He said efforts to impose such restrictions “had nothing to do with traditional conservative doctrine.”

“I respect conservatives. There’s nothing conservative about deciding you’re going to kick Disney out of his current position, because Mickey Mouse … shouldn’t … be able to say, you know, gay.”

While the bill appears to be an attack on Disney and large amusement parks in Orlando, experts say the financial impact of the legislation on society and the state is unclear at this stage.

DeSantis hastily pushed the bill through the state building and enforced it within three days of the special session, but will not enter into force until June 2023, giving both parties time to adapt to the new reality.

The law dissolves the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was created in the 1960s to attract Disney World to the state after much smaller Disneyland became a hit at a theme park in California.

For more than half a century, the neighborhood has allowed Disney to operate as a district government and provide services such as firefighting, energy, water and roads in Orange and Osceola districts. Disney, in turn, can issue tax-advantaged bonds to pay for improvements.

Disney is a major political contributor in the state. In the 2020 election cycle, the company donated a total of $ 4.8 million, including campaign funds, to more than 100 individual members of the Florida Legislature, some of whom sponsored Thursday’s legislation, state records show.

It is not clear whether now that the bill has become law, the state or society will be most harmed.

Walt Disney Resort paid $ 780.3 million in state and local taxes in 2021, according to the theme park’s 50th anniversary survey. Orange County Tax Administrator Scott Randolph said the legislation would punish local taxpayers more than Disney.

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Report by Maria Caspani in New York and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles Screenplay by Daniel Trotta Editor by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis

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