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DeSantis appointees begin reshaping Walt Disney World’s districts

On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis began trying to reshape Disney World’s governing body with new supervisors on eliminating a planning board, prohibiting mask mandates, and COVID-19 vaccine requirements. 

The five new board members of the governing body, which had been controlled by Disney up until February, had on their meeting agenda rules prohibiting anyone from being barred from its offices for not wearing a face mask or not having the COVID-19 vaccine. Also, the agenda includes a resolution asserting the board’s “superior authority” over the district that covers Disney World’s 27,000 acres, including two minuscule cities. 

Back in 2020, Disney World required masks and had social distancing protocols in place when it reopened after closing for several months to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. DeSantis had been a fierce opponent of virus mask and vaccine mandates to which he had petitioned the state Supreme Court to convene a grand jury to investigate “any and all wrongdoing.” 

The battle continued between Desantis and Republican state lawmakers against Disney when the entertainment company publicly opposed what critics say was the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation barring school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. In retaliation, Florida lawmakers passed, and DeSantis signed, which incited the reorganizing of Disney World’s company-controlled government. Disney previously had controlled the board for its 55-year existence.

Last month, the five DeSantis appointees claimed their Disney-controlled predecessors were stripping the new members of their powers and giving Disney control over design and construction at the theme park resorts.

On Monday, DeSantis and lawmakers immediately applied pressure, prosing upcoming legislation that would require state inspections of Disney rides, an unprecedented move since Florida’s largest theme park operators have been able to conduct their own inspections. 

Earlier this month, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that any actions against the company that threatens jobs or expansion at its Florida resort were not only “anti-business” but “anti-Florida.”


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