Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has been at war with the Walt Disney Company ever since the entertainment conglomerate criticized the governor's controversial "Don't Say Gay" legislation. One year later, the governor has claimed a huge win in his crusade, signing legislation giving him a wide swath of powers over the company's iconic Orlando theme park, Walt Disney World.
The bill, The Associated Press says, gives DeSantis control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which serves as the governing jurisdiction and tax district for the Walt Disney World Resort complex. AP notes that the new law requires DeSantis to "appoint a five-member board to oversee the government services that the Disney district provides." Board members were previously named through Disney entities.
"Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end," DeSantis said during a signing ceremony in Lake Buena Vista. "There's a new sheriff in town."
President Biden previously criticized DeSantis' attempts to take control of Disney, saying the efforts are evidence that the "far right has taken over the [Republican] party." And even some Republicans think DeSantis has gone too far, with former Vice President Mike Pence telling CNBC that the governor's actions are "beyond the scope of what I as a conservative, limited-government Republican would be prepared to do."
What are commentators saying?
DeSantis "has officially defeated woke Disney," Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of ACT for America, writes.
But the legislation actually isn't as far-reaching as DeSantis had initially hoped, writes The Financial Times. It "fell far short of his original goal" of dissolving the district entirely, and instead amounts to little more than a name change. But he did "secure a significant victory" in his new-found power to appoint the district's entire board of directors. He has already "packed the board with political allies," and they could weaponize their power to approve infrastructure projects as "leverage" over the company.
The governor's plan seems to go against typical Republicanism, legal expert and MSNBC commentator Tristian Snell suggests. "For almost 100 years, the right aimed to give companies more rights — including on speech," Snell wrote on Twitter. "DeSantis is undoing all that."
What's next for Disney?
Disney has pledged to abide by the new rules. In a statement obtained by Variety, the company said it was "ready to work within this new framework," adding that it would not try to challenge Florida's laws in court.
As The Washington Post notes, the new laws will not give the state direct power over the creative content produced by Disney. But "because the new appointees hold purse strings over infrastructure projects, they could influence Disney's decisions." Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, told the Post that DeSantis' new conservative board could "decide to borrow money or not to fund projects, or they could decide not to expand infrastructure to allow projects to go forward."
The first meeting with the new board members will take place soon. "They will be in charge during that board meeting, so buckle up," the governor has said.