Governor’s sometimes claim to have “created” jobs — which is almost always nonsense — but Governors can on occasion help to create the kind of political conditions in a state that are favorable to business, allowing those businesses to create jobs. But Governors rarely do things that directly strip jobs from their state.
Enter Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
In his on-going war with Disney he just got Disney to cancel plans to build a nearly $1 billion office complex in Florida and move more than 2,000 jobs to the state.
First of all, when did Disney become a progressive company? I mean, Walt Disney himself was known as a conservative and anti-Semite. To be fair, Disney died 57 years ago, and some of his family — especially his grand-niece Abigail Disney — have been much more progressive than old Walt himself, but still, this is Disney that we’re talking about.
Well, as of late, Disney has been making DeSantis look like John Birch.
Disney and DeSantis began to tangle back in 2021 when Disney required all its on-site employees to be fully vaccinated. The Governor announced he would impose fines against Disney and other companies with vaccine mandates. But it was in 2022 when when things really got going:
- March 28, 2022, Disney issues a company statement (based on pressure from company employees) that the “don’t say gay” bill should be struck down by the courts.
- April 19, 2022, DeSantis asks the Legislature to revoke Disney’s special district (the “Reedy Creek Improvement District”) and self-governing status when it meets in a special session on redistricting.
- April 21, 2022, the Florida Legislature passes a measure to dissolve the district; subsequently the state discovers that it would have to find a way to pay off an estimated $1 billion in the district’s debt.
- Jan. 25, 2023, Reedy Creek holds a public hearing on a series of agreements that will leave in place local land-use regulations that favor Disney for the next 30 years and a set of restrictive covenants that will limit what the DeSantis-aligned board can do with Disney’s property.
- Feb. 6, 2023, the Legislature meets in special session and abandons plan to dissolve Disney’s special taxing district; instead it releases a new plan to rename the district and let DeSantis choose the people in charge.
- Feb. 8, 2023, Reedy Creek board meets for a final time and votes to approve the series of agreements and restrictive covenants that tie the hands of DeSantis’ incoming board.
- Feb. 11, 2023, Legislature gives final approval to changes that would shift control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District from the Walt Disney Co. to DeSantis but leave the taxing district intact.
- Feb. 27, 2023, DeSantis signs into law the bill to give the governor control over Walt Disney World’s governing body.
- March 29, 2023, The newly appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District announces that it has discovered the development agreements and restrictive covenants that will limit its power over Disney’s property.
- April 3, 2023, DeSantis orders his inspector general to conduct an investigation into the Disney-controlled board agreements.
- April 17, 2023, DeSantis announces plan to revoke the development agreements that undercut the authority of the board he appointed and to impose new regulations on Disney operations. To come,
- April 26, 2023, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts file a federal lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida officials, accusing DeSantis of violating the company’s First Amendment rights by utilizing political power for “government retaliation” purposes.
- May 18, 2023, Disney announces cancellation of plans to build a nearly $1 billion office complex in Florida and move more than 2,000 jobs to the state.
Truthfully, I don’t think DeSantis is going to win this one. While Disney is far from the largest employer in Florida, it is one of the most visible. Maybe the best known employer. And DeSantis is just getting a public relations black eye.
On top of which, I believe that Disney will win their legal case. If the First Amendment protects anything, it protects private parties from government censorship. And that’s exactly what we have here. And all because DeSantis cannot resist persecuting LGBTQIA people.