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DeSantis seizes control of Disney World district

STORY: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has ratcheted up his feud with Disney.

DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that effectively gives him more power over Florida's Walt Disney World – stripping the country’s largest theme park of a degree of autonomy it has enjoyed for 50 years.

DESANTIS: “So Disney loses self-governing status. The state of Florida is the new sheriff in town….”

The new law gives Florida’s state government control over a region around the Orlando-area theme park – and is seen by political observers as a slap in the face after Disney opposed the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The area will now be controlled by a board of five supervisors, appointed by DeSantis, who will oversee traditional municipal services - such as fire protection, public utilities, waste collection and road maintenance. The quasi-government entity also has the authority to raise taxes for Disney World to pay outstanding debt and cover the cost of services.

DESANTIS: “And this bill and the structure that we've created in this bill will ensure that the municipal debt that's been racked up will be paid by Disney, not by Florida taxpayers.”

The move is largely viewed by political observers as retaliation for Disney’s objection to a law signed by DeSantis last March that restricts classroom discussion of gender and sexual orientation – dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by opponents.

Disney World is the largest employer in central Florida with close to 75,000 employees, and drew over 36 million visitors in 2021, according to the Themed Entertainment Association.

Disney shares were up in Monday trading.

A spokesperson for the entertainment company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.