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Tallahassee (USA) – The fight between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company is heading to court. The company has filed a lawsuit against the politician and his associates because the Republican has taken control of land adjacent to the theme park and is making it difficult for the company to do business. Disney claims the governor's actions are a “targeted campaign of government retaliation”, writes The New York Times (NYT). DeSantis' spokeswoman said the lawsuit was an “unfortunate example” of Disney's belief “in undermining the will of Florida voters.”
The Disney theme park in Orlando, Florida is one of the major employers and drivers of tourism there. Last year, the company spoke out against a new sex education law that bans teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to younger children and restricts the discussion of these topics in higher grades, without defining the restrictions more precisely. The sex education law is one of the central issues of DeSantis' presidential campaign, although he has not yet officially announced his candidacy.
“The company has no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its employees, guests and local partners from the relentless campaign. , which aims to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political opinion unpopular with some government officials,” Disney said in its lawsuit, quoted by Reuters.
This morning, a board appointed by DeSantis to oversee government services at Disney World voted to rescind two agreements that allowed Disney to expand and further develop the 101-square-kilometer theme park site. The lawsuit from the Disney company then came in a few minutes, the NYT wrote. According to the company, the government campaign “threatens Disney's business operations, threatens its economic future in the region and violates its constitutional rights”.
Since 1967, Disney has de facto managed a separate administrative entity that houses its tourist attractions, and for several decades, it managed land use planning, had its own fire and police departments, and was not subject to some of the rules of Orange County, which this a special territory surrounds the whole. DeSantis, a Republican, began taking steps last year to limit the firm's powers in the area. The main move was to shift power from people appointed by Disney to a board appointed by the governor.
In recent months, according to the NYT, DeSantis has proposed a series of measures aimed at affecting Disney. He wanted to reassess the price of the resort for property tax purposes and land development. In mid-April, he also threatened that he could have another amusement park or prison built nearby.
The Disney park in Orlando employs 75,000 people and is visited by over 50 million tourists annually. For 2022, the Disney company paid 1.2 billion dollars (25.5 billion crowns) in state and local taxes.