GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – If Walt Disney World needs a place to land after a fallout with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, state Sen. Michael Garrett has an idea: come on up to North Carolina.
Garrett, a Democrat from Guilford County, has filed Senate Bill 594, the “Mickey’s Freedom Restoration Act,” to give Disney a place to move the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and all those other parks, hotels and golf courses.
In case you haven’t heard, DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, has been feuding with Disney after the company opposed his so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and then usurped his legislative move to take over the special taxing district that was created for the company in the 1960s.
DeSantis has promised to fight the legal maneuver by Disney public to upend the board of special interests he had appointed to oversee that taxing district, essentially ensuring control while lawmakers were making their move. He has vowed there will be legal challenges, new laws, toll roads, withdrawal of some special exceptions and even this week talked about building more theme parks and a state prison next to Disney.
The company is among Florida’s largest private employers and most significant taxpayers, generating an estimated $75.2 billion in annual impact, and DeSantis’ actions have been criticized by some fellow Republicans.
Now Garrett, along with Sen. Chad Chaudhuri (D-Wake), the Senate minority whip, and Sydney Batch (D-Wake), who with Garrett are deputy Democratic caucus leaders, wants to study luring the company to North Carolina and asks for $750,000 starting in July to do so.
“North Carolina is a great place to do business,” Garrett said in a release. “Politicians who put their state’s economy at risk to boost their own selfish political ambitions are a liability.
“In North Carolina, we’ve learned this lesson the hard way. When HB2, the so-called ‘bathroom bill’ passed, other states capitalized on our state’s disgraceful misstep.
“I welcome The Walt Disney Company and all other businesses seeking refuge from the culture war madness currently gripping the great state of Florida.”
Garrett, the father of two small children and resident of Greensboro, said in a text message that he is “trying to make Disney World more accessible and affordable to North Carolina families.”
He said in more serious tones that the bill would establish “a commission to identify sites, infrastructure investments and incentive packages that would be needed … similar to the process we use to identify megasites.”
Garrett added, “We haven’t spoke to Disney yet. They were just notified today of the legislation.”
Disney covers about 43 square miles in Central Florida, which is about the same size as the city of San Francisco. Through its Reedy Creek District, which includes two small municipalities, Disney controls public safety, roads, utilities and other expenses generally provided to cities and counties.
Central Florida – principally Orlando – also is home to more than 145,000 hotel rooms (second only to Las Vegas), and Disney is the largest attraction in a state that drew about 137.6 million visitors last year.