Gov. Ron DeSantis made Florida the state where woke goes to die. It’s not looking great for some businesses, either.
The Republican governor’s high-profile fight with Walt Disney Co. is just one of several DeSantis has picked with major corporations — some before even he took office. Now this latest gambit is costing Florida some 2,000 jobs after the global entertainment giant said Thursday it would scrap a $1 billion development plan in Florida.
With DeSantis expected to announce his presidential bid very soon, GOP rivals and leading Democrats are savaging him over the clash with one of the state’s biggest employers.
Former President Donald Trump, who is also vying for the Republican nomination, said Thursday the governor “is being absolutely destroyed by Disney” and that the confrontation was “all so unnecessary.”
DeSantis’ playbook, though, highlights his populist streak and his willingness to push policies — and his politics — even if they lead to brawls with the tourism industry, agribusiness and Silicon Valley. His approach is quickly reshaping the relationship between big business and the GOP.
Here’s a look at some of the other companies and industries DeSantis has fought with.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line, headquartered in Miami and one of the largest cruise lines in the world, became mired in a long legal fight with the DeSantis administration over vaccine passports in 2021.
The fight centered on a DeSantis executive order that banned businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination. The governor had largely pushed a hands-off Covid-19 strategy and said vaccine passports discriminated against the unvaccinated.
Norwegian Cruise Line, however, fought back and sued, claiming that Florida’s rule wasn’t in the best interests of its customers, among other things. The cruise line faced a $5,000 fine for each violation, which could have totaled millions of dollars in penalties if a ship was full of passengers.
At the time of the fight, Norwegian’s CEO Frank Del Rio told Yahoo News: “It’s beyond bizarre. It’s shameful. I mean, come on, give it up. This is a pandemic we are talking about, people are dying every day, Florida now is the epicenter of the epicenter. What does it take for common sense to rule?”
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, eventually sided with DeSantis.
DeSantis has led the fight against Disney for more than a year. But his feud with U.S. Sugar goes back to before he was governor.
U.S. Sugar, based in South Florida, is one of the country’s largest producers of sugar cane and employs thousands of people in the state. As a congressman, DeSantis voted against U.S. Sugar’s priorities — and was one of two members of the Florida congressional delegation to support reforms that included reducing direct subsidies.
As a candidate for governor in 2018, DeSantis railed against his GOP primary opponent as an “errand boy for U.S. Sugar” and last year vetoed a bill focused on Everglades restoration that opponents said was helping the sugar industry.
DeSantis has picked some very high profile battles with tech companies, including some with echoes of Trump’s fights with Twitter and others over being deplatformed and claims of liberal bias.
In 2021, DeSantis pressed the GOP-controlled Legislature to rein in “Big Tech oligarchs” who were pushing a “radical leftist narrative.” Florida lawmakers passed a measure, and DeSantis signed it into law, that banned social media companies from censoring political candidates.
They faced fines of $250,000 per day for deplatforming candidates for Florida statewide office and $25,000 daily fines for non-statewide candidates.
Florida’s law, and a similar one in Texas, have faced legal challenges from Google and others who argue such legislation violates the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court last year blocked Texas’ law pending a federal appellate court hearing. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, meanwhile, ruled that Florida’s law is largely unconstitutional.