On Reedy Creek
Reedy Creek Improvement District was created by an act of the Florida Legislature in 1967 at the personal request of Walt Disney, the man. The district covers 36 square miles encompassing 25,000 acres of land allowing nineteen different landowners with ties to Disney to operate the land exempted from certain Florida regulations. Notably, the area is exempted from various environmental, health, and zoning regulations. It has allowed Walt Disney World to become what it is.
It is also probably time to let it go away. I tend to oppose special benefits for individual corporations. It is one thing to allow a company with an experimental plan to get off the ground unencumbered by regulations — allowing it to try something new. I would have supported it originally because it allowed Disney to grow into what it is now. But it is arguably not needed now, even though in fairnes to Disney, Disney is able to withhold millions of dollars in annual tax revenue to Florida. In exchange, Disney covers the costs of infrastructure the Florida taxpayers would otherwise have to cover.
The district has been good for Disney and has been very good for Florida’s economy.
Today, the Florida House of Representatives is set to end the Reedy Creek Improvement District because Disney spoke up against the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act. Everyone agrees the termination of the Reedy Creek Improvement District is a punishment for Disney taking a stand.
In O'Hare Truck Service v City of Northlake, 518 US 712 (1996), the United States Supreme Court ruled that when a government takes an otherwise lawful act but does it to specifically punish an individual entity for that entity’s exercise of its first amendment rights, the otherwise lawful act is unlawful.
The case involved a towing company in Northlake, IL. The owner of the company opposed the Mayor of Northlake’s election. The Mayor, in turn, ordered the city to stop using the towing service. The Court, in a 7-2 decision, ruled that punishing the tow service because its owner spoke out, is unlawful even though the city could otherwise have done so, because the intent was punish for the exercise of free speech.
In Masterpiece Cake Shop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 US _ (2018), the owner of the business refused to bake a cake for a gay marriage. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission compared Jack Philips, the owner, to a Nazi and ruled against him. Again, in a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that the state’s actions were unlawful because the Civil Rights Commission showed pre-existing hostility to the cake shop owner.
O’Hare Truck Service is the more applicable case because it specifically involved a business’s exercise of the first amendment, but time and again the Supreme Court has held that lawful state actions are unlawful when done because the government’s act is premised on punishing an individual citizen or business for exercising its first amendment rights. The case has deterred a number of progressive states from bad legislation designed to punish conservatives. In California, the state ultimately stopped a law from moving forward that would have prohibited California from doing business with any company that participated in any way with building President Trump’s border wall as just one example.
Frankly, I think Florida’s legislature and Governor sticking it to Disney will send a message to future corporations that they should stay out of people’s business and stop siding with the wokes. I view the situation as a deterrence.
But I also try to be mindful of my own bubble. I know voters hate bullies. Diehard fans of a football team love a good spiked football. Everybody else views it as unsportsmanlike. Florida won against Disney. The law got passed. This risks looking like being a sore winner.
Now, I know my friends on the right who were hyperonline and in thinktank land are as much in bubbles as people on the left. And they’ll dig in their heels and say this sounds like being a loser, a loser mindset, being weak, or capitulating.
But they can just as easily lose the support of voters for being assholes as the left can even though, in their bubble, they currently think themselves dynamic and victorious. They only are because the Democrats are so bad right now. But there is nothing permanent in politics — only soft landings and hard crashes.
We, as conservatives, should appreciate legal precedent that stops states from punishing us or our businesses for not supporting woke causes. California, New York, and other states have been deterred from a host of actions against conservatives because of O’Hare Truck Service and other Supreme Court cases that prohibit compelled speech as much as prohibit punishment for speaking out.
Ultimately, my pet theory is this — DeSantis and the Florida Republicans are, at heart, politicians. We have a long history of American politicians of both parties taking acts they know are prohibited. They do them anyway, the courts stop them, they rail against the courts, and everybody calls it a day.
I would not be surprised if, in a few years, we learn the GOP expected and hoped the courts would throw out the repeal of Reedy Creek. They get the win in the legislature. They deter future corporations from bad actions. And they keep Disney protected. It’s all theater.
But I know the seal clappers will clap anyway and ignore the obvious theater. That’s actually really good politics.
Erick's point makes significant sense to me. Being a political bully always comes with a heavy dose of karma / escalation.
While the state/business relationship on this legislation ultimately makes sense from a separation of benefit/responsibility perspective, FL is making this a punishment, particularly given the timing (and messaging). Erick is correct that using political clout in this manner remains contrary to our Constitution, specifically the ability to have a contrary take on an issue. As a Believer, I also see the danger trying mix "render to God" what is Caesar's domain.
The USA presents an unusual tension between secular and moral responsibilities that can come into conflict. We are not a "Christian Kingdom" as in the ancient Christendom driven by The Church. That's actually good news (just finished a series of lectures on History of the Church - Christendom and corruption in the leadership went hand-in-hand :-( ) yet it does leave us exposed to the loss of any moral compass/anchor we've experienced since the 60's (some would argue earlier).
Our influence as voters with a moral compass is critical to USA surviving, IMO. Using our gov't as a hammer does not bode well for Believers. Keep in mind those without an anchor have nothing actually preventing them from following the path of Caligula, Domitian, Nero, etc. Political escalation often has no-win as the outcome whether conservative or liberal.
This circumspect thinking is what I appreciate about Erick and his take on things…he thinks outside of his bubble. The inability or refusal to think outside one’s echo chamber weakens their attempts at persuading others. I feel that despite the left’s strangle-hold on media and tech companies, common sense and logic eventually win.