Florida Senate passes bill that would end Disney self-governing status

A person wearing a mouse costume takes selfies with supporters of Florida's Republican-backed "Don't Say Gay" bill that bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for many young students gather for a rally outside Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, U.S. April 16, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo

April 20 (Reuters) - The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would eliminate Walt Disney World's (DIS.N) self-governing status in response to the company's opposition to a new state law limiting discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools.

The Republican-led Senate voted 23 to 16 to do away with a special tax district that has allowed Walt Disney Co to self-govern the area of Orlando where its theme park complex has been sited since the late 1960s.

The bill still has to clear the House before it heads to Governor Ron DeSantis' desk. In a surprise move, DeSantis asked lawmakers to consider the legislation during a special session he called this week.

The law seeks to eliminate special tax districts including the Reedy Creek Improvement District in Orlando. That structure makes Disney, which is one of the state's largest private employers, and other landowners responsible for providing services such as fire fighting, power, water and roads. They in turn get relief from taxes and fees.

The governor, a Republican who is a potential candidate for his party's 2024 presidential nomination, wants to strike back at Disney for it opposition to a law that bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for students younger than about 9. DeSantis signed the legislation last month. read more

Disney came under fire for initially failing to take a public stand against the measure, which opponents say will harm the lesbian, gay, transgender and queer community.

Last month, the company condemned the legislation, saying it would pause all of its political donations in Florida. read more

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. The change would go into effect in June 2023.

Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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