Florida lawmakers are reviewing ways to restore some of the privileges that the state stripped from Walt Disney Co., still reducing the company’s benefits dramatically without going as far as ending them all, a key legislator said.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law that in 2023 would dissolve a special government district that’s granted sweeping benefits to Disney for half a century, called Reedy Creek, unless it’s reinstated by the legislature. The move was triggered by what the Republican governor saw as Disney’s criticism of a law he signed that limits elementary school teachings about gender identity.

The sponsor of the law axing the entertainment giant’s Florida perks, state Representative Randy Fine, said he’s encouraged by last month’s ouster of Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek was the opposition leader DeSantis’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. Fine said discussions were helped by signs that Disney’s returning CEO Bob Iger We will avoid Florida politics. 

“I think Mr. Iger has already said it probably was a misstep on the company’s part and how they handled it,” Fine was said in an interview.  “I don’t think we’d be in this situation if Bob Iger had been CEO.” 

The move was pitted DeSantis against one of Florida’s largest and most powerful employers, known for several iconic theme parks in Orlando. DeSantis, who’s widely believed to be plotting a run for president in 2024, has made the blow against Disney a key part of his so-called “anti-woke” agenda. Florida Governor Rick Scott has repeatedly pledged to pursue corporations who side with him in culture-war fights over gender identity, race, and abortion. Fighting what he called “the woke” This was the foundation for a reelection effort that resulted in DeSantis One of the most significant landslide wins of any Republican in the US midterm election in November.

DeSantis won’t make any “U-turns” According to his chief spokesperson, the governor signed the law in this year. The governor won’t reverse his pledges to eliminate “the extraordinary benefit given to one company,” Bryan Griffin, Press Secretary, stated in an emailed message.  “A plan is in the works and will be released soon.”

Iger To ‘quiet things down’ Florida

One goal is to make sure that Disney pays back nearly $1 billion of municipal bonds issued in the special district. DeSantis He said. “We will have an even playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly owes no special favors to one company,” Griffin said. “Disney’s debts will not fall on the taxpayers of Florida.”

A Disney spokesperson declined to comment. In a recent meeting of Disney employees, Iger, said: “Do I like the company being embroiled in controversy? Of course not.” 

“It can be distracting and have a negative impact on the company. To the extent I can quiet things down, I’m going to do that,” he said, adding that he’s still getting “up to speed” on the situation with Reedy Creek and that he doesn’t have all the details about the ramifications of Florida’s decision.

Legislation to be replaced Reedy Creek will seek to strip away benefits that no other company except Disney enjoys, said Fine, who said he’s involved in discussions among lawmakers and the governor. Fine declined to comment about the details of the discussions and what privileges may be at risk once a new bill is presented in the legislature. 

He cited the perks that Disney has enjoyed, such as government-like power to seize land via Eminent Domain and to sell bonds. In 1967, the legislature created the Reedy Creek tax district. This was a result of the deal that saw the construction and opening of Disney World. The agreement gave Disney autonomy over 25,000 acres. This included the oversight of its own building code, permits, and other requirements. This helped Disney build faster. 

“I think what you’ll likely see is some of the things that just made no sense,” Fine. “You know, it isn’t going to be, ‘Oops, let’s go back to the way it was.’ You’re gonna see something substantially different.”

Iger, in the wide-ranging meeting with employees, said he’s not going to back down on having Disney be a “good citizen of the world,” This is often mistakenly misunderstood as political. 

“I think there’s a misperception here about what politics is,” He explained. “I think that some of the subjects that have proven to be controversial as it relates to Disney have been branded political, and I don’t necessarily believe they are.” 

—With assistance from Thomas Buckley

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