The Walt Disney Co. has delayed its plan to relocate 2,000 employees from California to Florida until 2026 amid a feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican-dominated state legislature over the firm’s opposition to the new “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Initially, Disney planned to have the workers from its theme parks as well as its experiences and products division on the ground in the Sunshine State by the end of this year or at the beginning of next year.
But the company now says it wants to give those workers added “flexibility” by pushing back their scheduled move east, The Hollywood Reporter is reporting on Thursday.
A Disney spokesperson told THR that while “a growing number of employees” have already settled in central Florida, “we also want to continue to provide flexibility to those relocating, especially given the anticipated completion date of the campus is now in 2026.”
The move has reportedly upset some employees who had already sold their houses in California and were working with local Orlando-area realtors on buying a home in central Florida, Orlando Business Journal reported.
The “campus” in Lake Nona will be home to some of Disney’s corporate operations as well as its “Imagineering” department — the research and development arm that is responsible for creating and designing the company’s theme parks and attractions.
Disney now says that construction of its facilities in Lake Nona will be completed by 2026 — hence the delay.
The announcement is sure to fuel speculation that Disney is subtly retaliating against DeSantis and his GOP allies in Tallahassee for enacting a law that would strip its Florida theme parks of its self-governing status.
In April, DeSantis signed into law a measure that dissolves Reedy Creek Improvement District, which operates as an autonomous entity on land straddling Orange and Osceola counties that has the power to levy taxes, build infrastructure, grant licenses and institute its own zoning laws.
The new law dissolving the district doesn’t take effect until June 2023.
Disney ran afoul of the Republican Party in Florida after it bowed to employee pressure and came out against the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which bans teaching children about topics including gender identity and sexual orientation before fourth grade.
Officials from both counties had slammed DeSantis and the state legislature, saying that the dissolution of RCID would mean that county taxpayers would have to foot the bill for more than $1 billion in bond debt.
DeSantis has said he wants the state — and not the counties — to assume control of the Disney-dominated self-governing body that has run the Orlando-area theme parks for more than 50 years.