Disney Ron DeSantis fight enters new phase with lobbyists


disney is preparing to take his fight with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his GOP allies to the state legislature to the next level, according to people familiar with the matter.

With Florida’s legislative session just weeks away, Disney is pushing lobbyists to step up efforts to influence the Republican-controlled state legislature and target land-use bills that could harm to the company, among other measures, said the people, who declined to be named to speak freely on the issues.

A Disney spokesperson declined to comment on the lobbying effort.

The battle between the entertainment giant and DeSantis began last year after Disney opposed Florida’s bill that critics have dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’, which bans lifelong learning. sexuality and gender identity in public schools from kindergarten to third grade.

Then, before DeSantis could strip the district where Disney is based of its self-government status and replace the board that oversaw the area, a Disney-allied panel signed a long-term development agreement that significantly limits the governor’s control. DeSantis said state lawmakers are drafting legislation to reverse this OK.

Republican officials and business leaders have increasingly criticized DeSantis’ salvoes at the company. Former President Donald Trump and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — two of the Florida governor’s potential rivals in 2024 — and even former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein have all pushed DeSantis back over his battle with the company. .

From DeSantis suggested on Monday that he wanted to develop land near Disney World, potentially building a prison, Disney has announced that “affordable and accessible housing” around the park is together open in 2026.

Republican Florida State Senator Blaise Ingoglia warned Disney not to retaliate, as he stood next to DeSantis at a press conference on Monday.

“I have a few words for Disney. You’re not going to win this fight. This governor will,” Ingoglia said. “Advice for Disney going forward: Ditch it. Ditch it.”

At the same event, DeSantis pledged to rescind an agreement that would allow the Orlando amusement park to bypass a special district board made up of DeSantis appointees.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis answers questions during a press conference at Seminole State College in Sanford, Fla., Monday, May 16, 2022.

Joe Burbank | Orlando Sentinel | Getty Images

Shortly after DeSantis’ remarks on On Monday, Disney executives called on lobbyists to watch for any Florida bills that could harm the company and start working aggressively against them, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. There is particular interest in fighting legislation related to land use following DeSantis’ remarks, the person said.

This person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about Disney’s plans, told CNBC that one of the land-related bills that Disney lobbyists are watching closely is CS/SB 1604: on land use and development. Ingoglia introduced the bill in the Senate, and an identical measure was proposed in the State House.

Both houses introduced amendments that could affect Disney. The measures would allow a “newly elected or appointed independent special district governing body,” such as the Disney District governing body appointed by DeSantis, to review any development deal and have the opportunity to vote on whether it district will re-adopt this original development agreement.

Both of those amendments were tabled Tuesday, the day after DeSantis’ press conference where he hammered Disney, according to the state Legislature’s website.

Disney and CEO Bob Iger don’t seem to be taking the latest moves by DeSantis and his allies lightly.

Friends of Iger say the Disney CEO might be hoping that a renewed lobbying effort against DeSantis and his allies, along with critical public perception of the governor’s actions, might dissuade enough Republican officials from siding with the government. governor. DeSantis effectively controls the state legislature with a GOP supermajority.

“It’s almost like every time DeSantis says those crazy things, Bob comes out front,” a longtime Iger ally told CNBC. “He feels Disney is ready for the fight but I think he’s kind of watching the Governor try to float his own boat on this one.”

A Disney spokesperson told CNBC that this perception of Iger was “not accurate.”

Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, during an interview with CNBC, February 9, 2023.

Randy Shropshire | CNBC

Potential contenders for DeSantis in a presidential primary have jumped on the controversy as a chance to stick it with the governor of Florida. Trump, who is running for president, and Christie, another potential candidate for 2024, have both torn DeSantis for his war with Disney.

“Disney’s next move will be the announcement that there will be no more money being invested in Florida because of the Governor – In fact, they might even announce a slow pullback or the sale of some properties, or the whole thing” , Trump said in a Truth Social. post a response to DeSantis’ latest fight with the company, without citing evidence that the company may be taking these steps.

Early GOP primary polls show DeSantis as the second-leading candidate behind Trump. The ex-president has held a considerable advantage in most recent polls.

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The Disney feud may also cost DeSantis donors dearly. Some Republican megadonors, who were once firmly in DeSantis’ corner for the 2024 GOP, recently called out the governor’s allies to say they might not help him run for president, according to a longtime ally of DeSantis. Instead, they said they might support another possible candidate in Sen. Tim Scott, R.S.C., that person said.

However, there may be a way out of the prolonged fight. Before DeSantis’ latest attack, Iger had suggests to Time that he was willing to try to redeem himself with the Governor.

“I don’t see this as a mattress situation for us. If the Governor of Florida wishes to meet with me to discuss any of this, of course, I would be happy to do so,” he said.

Iger also publicly tore up DeSantis’ treatment of Disney.

Desantis Vs. Disney: War Intensifies in Florida

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