• Fri. Dec 9th, 2022

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Florida Lawmaker Threatens a ‘Living Hell’ for Disney as LGBTQ Feud Intensifies – Newsweek

The Walt Disney Co.’s proclamation that it will somehow force an overturn of Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill that Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law on Monday could mean the loss of government perks that will lead to “a living hell” for the company best known for family-friendly theme parks and movies, state Representative Anthony Sabatini told Newsweek on Friday.

Sabatini enthusiastically voted in favor of House Bill 1557, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, in February and has been one of its highest-profile proponents ever since Disney issued a March 28 decree saying its “goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.”

In response, some lawmakers are threatening to reverse government favors that have benefited Disney since 1967, when Florida created something called the “Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID).” This gave Disney taxing and other privileges and allowed it to “act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government,” a favor that made sense to politicians at the time since Disney was promising to turn 38.5 square miles of “largely uninhabited pasture and swampland into a global destination,” according to the RCID website.

“When Disney purchased land for its theme parks, it pushed through laws that said it was self-governing,” Sabatini told Newsweek. “They have their own police and fire departments and could even have their own nuclear power plant if they wished. If it were up to me, I’d call a special session and Disney would lose all of it. If they’re governed by local authorities, it’s not going to be pretty for them—they’ll be subject to all sorts of crazy taxes, rules and regulations. It will make life a living hell for them. They’ll be regulated like everybody else.”

DeSantis, in fact, signaled during a Thursday press conference that he’s open to the idea of reversing special privileges that had been carved out for Disney, though repealing corporate state tax breaks are off the table since all businesses qualify for them. DeSantis said he’d be in favor of not allowing Disney “to have their own set of rules compared to everybody else.”

Such remarks seem to be an escalation of a feud that had largely been confined to the social issue of parental and LGBTQ rights, though now could have dramatic economic implications for both sides. Disney already weathered an employee walkout after workers said the company was too slow to speak against HB 1557 and many celebrities, including Mark Hamill of Disney’s Star Wars franchise, have bashed Florida over its passage.

Beyond Disney corporate, the Disney+ streaming service issued a separate March 22 statement against HB 1557 in part reading, “We strongly denounce all legislation that infringes on the basic human rights of people in the LGBTQIA+ community—especially legislation that targets and harms young people and their families.”

The seven-page bill boils down to the notion that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Anthony Sabatini Florida Rep. Trump audit election
Florida state Representative Anthony Sabatini is threatening to help repeal special favors that Disney has enjoyed for six decades due to the company’s “goal” of striking down House Bill 1557, he said.
myfloridahouse.gov

But critics, like The Trevor Project, a mental health organization for LGBTQ youth, says the bill erases “LGBTQ identity, history and culture” and that “vague parental notification requirements … could effectively require teachers to ‘out’ LGBTQ students.”

Such analysis is nonsense, says Sabatini.

“This bill is about K through third grade. Let me repeat: K through third—children ages 5, 6 and 7,” he said. “Disney’s position is that these children need lessons about transgenderism and sexual orientation. If you need me to explain why that’s wrong, it’s a waste of my time, because it’s so self-evident.”

Disney did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment, but its March 28 statement to the press said that “Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law.”

“Disney is responding to radical, leftist nut-jobs in California. They’re corporate cowards,” Sabatini said. “Disney is about to lose all its governing status in Florida. The hammer is going to drop so hard on Disney that they’re in full defense mode. Really bad things are going to happen, and they’re freaking out.”