Disney escalates legal battle against Gov. Ron DeSantis

Disney accused Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis of orchestrating a “government retaliation” campaign as part of the lawsuit. A new lawsuit sharply escalates the battle between entertainment giants and Republican politicians. The two sides have been arguing ever since Disney criticized a state law banning discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary schools. 

The lawsuit was filed after state officials canceled a contract to develop the company’s theme park in Florida. Disney said Mr. DeSantis’ move to take over operations threatened its business and violated its constitutional rights.

“Disney regrets having traveled to this country,” the company’s parks division said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida.

The company has no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign intended to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing unpopular political views with some government officials.

Mr. DeSantis who is currently abroad on a world tour has previously described the state action as an attempt to remove special benefits for a company that is no longer in the public interest.

At one point, he said the state would “not kneel to wake up leaders in California.” “We are not aware of any legal rights a company has to run its own government or maintain privileges that other state-owned companies do not have,” the company’s communications director, Taryn Fenske, said in response to the lawsuit. “The lawsuit is another unfortunate example of their hope to undermine the will of Florida voters and operate outside the bounds of the law.”

What’s behind the argument?

The controversy with Disney which opened Walt Disney World across the city in Florida in 1971 and is one of the state’s largest employers has raised the profile of Mr. DeSantis, who is seen by many as a potential Republican presidential candidate.

He has advocated for measures such as a six-week ban on abortion and the Parents’ Rights in Education Act, dubbed by critics as a “no gay” bill, that bans discussion of sexual orientation. education and gender identity for students aged nine and under. The state extended the ban to all classes this month. Disney criticized the law last year after it came under pressure from its employees.

Florida lawmakers then voted to restructure the district, which was established more than 50 years ago to oversee the development of the land around Disney World, including four theme parks, dozens of hotels and zones. entertainment.

The moves gave Mr. DeSantis the power to appoint members to the county board of directors, taking that power away from landowners in the 25,000-acre county, of which Disney is by far the largest company. “There is a new sheriff in town,” Mr. DeSantis said of the move. Before installing the new board, however,

Disney reached a last-minute agreement outlining the scope of development in the area and giving Disney the power to review any changes to properties within its boundaries. . The contract limits the powers of the new council and includes provisions to be in effect forever or until “21 years after the death of the last surviving descendant of King Charles III, King of England”.

Mr. DeSantis said Disney “tried to shorten the time” and announced plans for the government’s investigation and other potential actions. He openly discussed a range of possibilities, including new taxes, tolls and even opening a state prison near the parks. Disney boss Bob Iger called Mr DeSantis’ fight with the company “anti-corporate” and “anti-Florida”.

In the lawsuit, the company said it plans to invest $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next decade, noting that “development and investment of this magnitude cannot effectively take place when it can be abolished or vandalized at the whim of new political leaders”.

He said the approval of the latest development deal was accompanied by appropriate public notice, including in a local newspaper. Michael Allan Wolf, a University of Florida law professor and expert in property law and local government, said he was surprised that DeSantis took on the Disney role.

But he wasn’t surprised by the company’s answer in court. “What the governor and the legislature have done has had a cumulative effect,” he said. Given the way the Governor and the Legislature have targeted Disney, we shouldn’t be surprised that Disney is fighting back.”

He said the company seems to have a strong case and looks forward to seeing how the dispute is resolved by other companies. “You can ask me seriously… Would other companies make the same kind of investments in Florida’s ambitious plans if they were no longer certain that the state would one day step down from under them? He said.

The fight with Disney runs counter to traditional conservative views on government interference in business rights, which has drawn criticism from Mr. DeSantis from some Republicans. Former US President Donald Trump, who could be challenged by Republican presidential nominee Mr. DeSantis, said the governor “was beaten and tricked and embarrassed by Mickey Mouse.”



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