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DeSantis fires back at Disney, says company should be stripped of 'special privileges' that allow self-governance

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DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

The feud between the Walt Disney Company and Florida Republicans intensified Thursday after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) floated the idea of repealing a 1960s law that gave Disney self-governing status over its property.

What is the background?

The Florida legislature passed a law in 1967 establishing the "Reedy Creek Improvement District" that essentially gave Disney self-governing control of nearly 40 square miles in Central Florida around Orlando.

The Reedy Creek Improvement District explains on its website that the law states "that landowners within the Reedy Creek Improvement District, primarily Walt Disney World, would be solely responsible for paying the cost of providing typical municipal services like power, water, roads, fire protection etc. Local taxpayers, meaning residents of Orange and Osceola County, would not have to pay for building or maintaining those services."

What is happening now?

Republican lawmakers began floating a repeal of the law this week as backlash against Disney grew over its stance on Florida's Parental Rights in Education bill.

The law protects children in kindergarten through third grade from receiving classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, Disney opposes the law and will lobby for its repeal.

"Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week w/fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government. If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County," Florida state Rep. Spencer Roach (R) wrote on Twitter.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, DeSantis addressed "special privileges" that Disney has accumulated in Florida.

"As a matter of first principle, I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power," he said, later adding, "I think what has happened is there’s a lot of these special privileges that are not justifiable, but because Disney had held so much sway, they were able to sustain a lot of special treatment over the years."

The governor then called statements from Disney executives "really, really crazy," and noted that Disney has "lost a lot of the pull that they used to have," which he observed is "good thing for our state, because the state should be governed by the best interest of the people."

"I would say any special privileges that are in law, I would like to get rid of generally," DeSantis said.

"I think in this particular case with Disney, I just don’t think you have very many people in the legislature any more who are going to be able to defend a lot of what has been done over many, many years to really have them almost govern themselves in some of these things. That was probably never appropriate to start, but is certainly not appropriate now at this point," he added.

WATCH: Gov. Ron DeSantis in West Palm Beach youtu.be

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article stated that the Disney area is 40 acres. It has been corrected to 40 square miles.

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