A report from local journalist Jason Garcia reveals that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office was responsible for the failed legislation that would target Walt Disney World for state-mandated ride inspections.
As a refresher, DeSantis held an April 17th press conference earlier this year to outline his plans for retaliation against Walt Disney World for the theme park speaking out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill back in 2022. During the press conference, DeSantis floated the idea of a state prison at Walt Disney World or even allowing a different theme park operator to come in and build on Disney World’s doorstep.
As part of the press conference, the newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson talked about further steps that the State could take to get its hands into Disney’s operations. Simpson said that there was a proposal from the Florida Legislature that would allow the State to have a new inspection process for Disney World attractions. At the time, Disney World was one of a handful of theme park operators that were exempt from inspections but must report injuries to the state. Other theme park operators included in the 2001 “MOU Exempt Facilities” list include SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens, and Legoland.
While Simpson originally outlined the proposed legislation as being for “large theme parks”, DeSantis made sure to make it clear that Disney World would be the only theme park operator targeted by the legislation via a piece of wording that would only target “special districts”. Universal Orlando was a large donor to DeSantis and the Republican Party of Florida, and Universal never spoke out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. When asked about whether or not the pending legislation would affect theme parks like SeaWorld and Universal Orlando, DeSantis tried to create some space between himself and the proposed bill by saying it was a “legislative question”. Thanks to the new report, we now know that the text of the proposed bill did not originate in the Florida Legislature, but actually in the governor’s office.
As revealed in the report, the exact language of the amendment came via an email from DeSantis’ office just hours before it was filed in the Florida Legislature by Rep. Lawrence McClure. The email, which had no mention of the amendment, Disney, DeSantis, or anything to identify the purpose of the communications, simply had a scanned image with the precise language, and the body of the email said “Please see attached”.
As it turns out, the proposed amendment never made it into law but seems to be yet another piece of evidence that ties DeSantis directly to the legislation proposed or introduced last summer meant to punish and target Walt Disney World. One piece of legislation that was crafted to singularly target Disney World was CS/CS/CS/HB 1305 – a bill that required the Department of Transportation to take over safety standards and inspections of the Walt Disney World monorail system. Here’s a look at the relevant section of the bill, and the narrowly constructed language from the rubber-stamp Republican legislature:
The department shall adopt by rule minimum safety standards for governmentally owned fixed-guideway transportation systems, and privately owned or operated fixed-guideway transportation systems operating in this state which are financed wholly or partly by state funds, and any governmentally or privately owned fixed-guideway transportation systems operating in this state which are located within an independent special district created by local act which have boundaries within two contiguous counties. Standards must be site-specific for fixed-guideway transportation systems and shall be developed jointly by the department and representatives of the affected systems, giving full consideration to nationwide industry safety norms relating to the development and operation of fixed guideway transportation systems. The department shall conduct structural safety inspections in adherence with s. 335.074 for any fixed-guideway transportation systems that are raised or have bridges, as appropriate. Inspectors shall follow departmental safety protocols during safety inspections, including requiring the suspension of system service to ensure the safety and welfare of inspectors and the traveling public during such inspections.
Disney is currently suing DeSantis and others in federal court, alleging that the Governor has chilled its First Amendment right to free speech by using the might of government to punish Disney for statements it made against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
DeSantis and Disney will meet in court on December 12th where a judge will hear DeSantis’ argument that the lawsuit from Disney should be dismissed.
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!