North Carolina state Sen. Michael Garrett, a Democrat representing District 27 in the Greensboro area, wants The Walt Disney Company and its Florida theme parks to move to his state.
Garrett on Wednesday introduced the “Mickey’s Freedom Restoration Act,” which would create a Study Committee to attract the company to North Carolina.
And now this: North Carolina wants @Disney – "Mickey's Freedom Restoration Act" pic.twitter.com/GGgHZT6DCe
— Mary Ellen Klas (@MaryEllenKlas) April 19, 2023
Garret, the Deputy Democratic Caucus Leader, is sponsoring the legislation along with fellow Deputy Democratic Caucus Leader Sydney Batch and Senate Democratic Whip Jay Chaudhuri.
The bill is in response to DeSantis’ ongoing attacks on Disney, seen as retaliation for the tourism giant’s opposition to his controversial Parental Rights in Education law, known more commonly as the “don’t say gay” law.
DeSantis has since established the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, replacing the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has acted, basically, as its own government since the 1950s. He also suggested increasing theme park inspections, including on its iconic monorail which is currently exempt from inspections.
And he also floated, perhaps jokingly, using state-owned land near Disney to build a new state prison.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has expressed outrage, calling DeSantis’ moves “not just anti-business, but … anti-Florida.”
The press release announcing the North Carolina legislation cites Iger’s comment and says “the bill sponsors believe North Carolina offers a stable and prosperous environment for Disney to make a long-term investment in its future.”
“Politicians who put their state’s economy at risk to boost their own selfish political ambitions are a liability,” Garret said in a statement. “In North Carolina, we’ve learned this lesson the hard way.”
He was referring to the state’s now-defunct bathroom bill that barred transgender people from using the bathroom for the gender with which they identified. That bill led to massive business blowback, including cancellations of major sporting events. That, he said, caused other states to capitalize “on our state’s disgraceful misstep.”
He said he welcomed Disney “and all other businesses seeking refuge from the culture war madness currently gripping the great state of Florida.”
But the invitation is unlikely to yield any actual results for North Carolina. Rollins College business professor Mark Johnston told NPR the company was too big to pull roots, noting that the Orlando area location “is their premier theme park location.”
It also may be a disingenuous offer consider the North Carolina General Assembly has a Republican majority (72-48), which is now veto-proof after a Democrat changed her party affiliation to Republican.
That means it could pass similar legislation as in Florida. The General Assembly is already considering its own parents’ bill of rights, which would, among other things, require schools to notify parents if their child wants to be addressed by different pronouns. Like Florida’s version, it’s seen as largely anti-LGBTQ.