Disney to lose special tax status in Florida amid ‘Don’t Say Gay’ clash
The company’s clash with Florida is the latest example of how speaking out on social and political issues can put companies at odds with some lawmakers. Last year Georgian politicians threatened to raise taxes on Delta Air Lines after the company spoke out against the state’s restrictive election laws. More recently, Texas lawmakers said they would ban Citigroup from writing municipal bonds in the state unless the bank revokes its policy of paying employees to travel out of state for abortions, which are severely limited.
The clash between Mr. DeSantis and Disney began on March 9, when the company – under acute pressure from its employees – spoke out against legislation on parents’ rights in education, or what opponents called the bill “Don’t Say Gay”.
More … than 150 companies, including Marriott and American Airlines, had already signed a human rights campaign letter opposing the legislation. Disney had avoided taking a public position, however, with its chief executive, Bob Chapek, telling employees in a March 7 email that he didn’t want the company to become “political football.”
Two days later, as pressure mounted for Disney to condemn the legislation, Mr. Chapek did. He also announced that he had called Mr. DeSantis “to express our disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender children and families.” .
“The governor heard our concerns and agreed to meet with me and the LGBTQ+ members of our senior team in Florida to discuss ways to address them,” Mr. Chapek said.
This seemed to annoy Mr. DeSantis, which led to a tit for tat between his publicist and a Disney spokesperson. When Mr. DeSantis signed the bill on March 28, Disney renewed his criticism. “Our goal as a company is to see this law repealed by the legislature or struck down by the courts,” Disney said in a statement at the time, “and we remain committed to supporting national and state organizations working to achieve it.”
Florida lawmakers then began threatening to revoke The special tax district of Disney World.
The Florida legislature convened this week for a special session on the redistricting of Congress. Mr. DeSantis issued a proclamation on Tuesday authorizing the Republican-controlled body to also undertake the elimination of special districts created before 1968. Almost all of them were created after that date, with the major exception of Disney.
stephen gandel contributed report.