Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has officially signed a bill mandating state inspections of the Walt Disney World Monorail System, taking over the responsibility of upkeep from Disney themselves.
The bill is known as SB 1250 and deals with a number of small changes to the operations of the Florida Department of Transportation. One amendment in particular is designed to target the Walt Disney World Monorail System specifically. While the original bill filed in February as well as subsequent revisions in March and on April 14 did not contain this provision, an amendment was attached on April 26, the same day Disney filed suit against Gov. DeSantis and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District on First Amendment grounds.
The new bill takes effect on July 1.
The amendment, filed by Republican Senator Nick DiCeglie, states the “department shall adopt by rule minimum safety standards for governmentally owned fixed-guideway transportation systems, 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.”
The language of the amendment almost exclusively refers to the Walt Disney World Monorail system. It requires site-specific guidelines for the transportation system developed by the Department of Transportation (FDOT) and representatives of the affected system. FDOT inspects other similar tram systems in the state, like the Orlando International Airport tram. On-site inspections by FDOT would happen every three years and Disney would be required to submit a safety plan every year.
Democratic Senator Jason W. B. Pizzo said the amendment is an act of “socialism” and “stained and ruined” a bill he would otherwise support. Democratic Senator Tina Scott Polsky said the amendment was “pure malpractice” targeting Walt Disney World Resort because Governor DeSantis’ “feelings were hurt.” Like Pizzo, Polsky said she would have voted for the bill if not for the Disney-targeted amendment and that a vote for the bill was encouraging Disney to leave Florida.
The Walt Disney World Monorail system is 14.7 miles long and averages about 150,000 passengers per day.
The bill is just the latest piece of legislature in Florida targeting Walt Disney World Resort.
Central Florida Tourism Oversight District
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors replaces the Reedy Creek Improvement District Board of Supervisors. The five members of the new Board were appointed by Governor DeSantis and recently confirmed by the Florida Sentate.
Board chair Martin Garcia and vice chair Michael Sasso will serve four-year terms until February 26, 2027. The other three members — Brian August, Bridget Ziegler, and Ron Peri — will serve two-year terms until February 26, 2025.
Glen Gilzean, Jr. has been hired as the new District administrator, with John Classe moving to a special advisor role.
The CFTOD Board of Supervisors and Disney are currently suing each other.
Disney Suing DeSantis & CFTOD Board
In their lawsuit, Disney Parks & Resorts cites “a targeted campaign of government retaliation — orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech.” The plaintiff further argues that this chronology of events “threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.”
Among other grievances, the Governor’s threat of new tolls and taxes, and the Board’s decision to void the company’s final agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District Board were included in the document.
They name Governor DeSantis, the CFTOD Board of Supervisors members, and now former District administrator John Classe.
The Walt Disney Company is suing for “declaratory and injunctive relief.” Injunctive relief forces a party to act in a certain way or prevents them from doing various things.
Disney regrets that it has come to this, but having exhausted efforts to seek a resolution, the Company is left with no choice but to file this lawsuit to protect its cast members, guests, and local development partners from a relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint unpopular with certain State officials.
The company is demanding multiple items of relief be met, including:
- A. Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it abrogates Disney’s rights in violation of the Contracts Clause;
- B. Declare that the Legislative Declaration is an unlawful taking of Disney’s property rights without payment of just compensation in violation of the Takings Clause;
- C. Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it was an arbitrary and irrational voiding of the Development Agreement and Restrictive Covenants in violation of the Due Process Clause;
- D. Declare that the Legislative Declaration is unlawful and unenforceable because it was enacted in retaliation for Disney’s speech in violation of the First Amendment;
- E. Declare that the Contracts remain in effect and enforceable;
- F. Declare that Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B are unlawful and unenforceable because they were enacted in retaliation for Disney’s political speech in violation of the First Amendment;
- G. Issue an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Legislative Declaration;
- H. Issue an order enjoining Defendants from enforcing Senate Bill 4C and House Bill 9B;
- I. Award Plaintiff its attorney’s fees and costs;
- J. Grant such other relief as this Court may deem just and proper.
The CFTOD Board of Supervisors voted to file their own countersuit against Disney. While Disney’s lawsuit is through federal court, the Board’s lawsuit is through state court.
In their 188-page complaint, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District named itself as the plaintiff and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts US Inc. as the defendant. Through nearly 200 pages of legalese, the district asks the state court to render Disney’s development agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District as unenforceable, null, and void. They also ask the same to be done of the restrictive covenants, which notably set the benchmark for expiry at 21 years after the death of the last living descendant of King Charles III, living as of the date of the document.
The CFTOB additionally asks that all agreements cannot be enforced on Disney’s end either. Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans and typically acts to rubber stamp Gov. DeSantis’ agenda, is working to pass a law that invalidates Disney’s agreement with Reedy Creek. Governor DeSantis said it was well within his power to do so.