Ron DeSantis consolidates his hold on Walt Disney World

As he signed a bill giving the state control of Disney's sprawling Orlando theme parks, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis cautioned the public to "buckle up." 

The bill revokes the exclusive authority Disney has held for over half a century and enables Mr. DeSantis' Republican-led legislature to exercise more oversight. The action is interpreted as retaliation for Disney's opposition to state laws restricting gender and sexuality education. It precedes Mr. DeSantis's likely presidential bid in 2024. 

At a bill signing ceremony on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, near Walt Disney World, he declared, "Today, the corporate kingdom comes to an end." There is a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be emphasized. Walt Disney World operated within Florida's Reedy Creek Improvement District for more than 50 years, essentially functioning as a self-governing area with control over utilities and fire services. 

It was argued that this saved local taxpayers from large infrastructure and other costs necessary to operate the 43-square-mile (111-square-kilometer) property that attracts millions of visitors. The new law does not dissolve the district or transfer its substantial debt to taxpayers, but it subjects Disney to additional layers of external oversight by appointing a five-member board.

It also means Disney will be treated similarly to other Orlando theme parks and will no longer be exempt from certain state regulations, such as building and fire prevention codes, according to Mr. DeSantis. Mr. DeSantis appointed Martin Garcia, a Tampa attorney and Republican donor whose firm contributed $50,000 (£41,467) to Mr. DeSantis' re-election campaign, to the new board.

Bridget Ziegler, a member of the Sarasota County School Board and co-founder of the conservative organization Moms for Liberty, was also appointed. She is the wife of Christian Ziegler, the new chairman of the Florida Republican Party. Mr. DeSantis stated that the new board is scheduled to meet the following week and that they are going to be in charge during that board meeting.

Mr. DeSantis indicated that a pay raise for emergency first responders in the recently renamed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District would be among the first decisions made. One of the world's largest media companies, Disney, and Florida lawmakers have been at odds since April of last year, when Mr. DeSantis signed a controversial bill.

Disney issued a public statement expressing opposition to the bill, which prohibited gender and sexuality education for students under the age of nine in Florida schools. Opponents of the bill, which is now law and has been dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" law by some, argued that it would stigmatize and isolate LGBT youth, whereas supporters argued that it would protect children from what they deemed to be inappropriate content.

In response to the opposition, DeSantis urged legislators to strip Disney of its special governing authority. The public feud between Mr. DeSantis and Disney has helped elevate his profile as a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

On Monday, however, Mr. DeSantis hinted that he was still a fan of Mickey Mouse. He mentioned that despite everything that has occurred in the past few years, he has always been very proud of the parks.