Florida’s state legislature is taking aim at Walt Disney World’s monorail system just as the House of Mouse announced that it was taking Gov. Ron DeSantis to court in the escalating high-stakes battle.
The Republican-dominated legislature proposed an amendment to a transportation bill Tuesday that would mandate state oversight of the monorail system that transports visitors at the theme parks, WFLA-TV reported.
If the amended bill is passed, it would require the state Department of Transportation to oversee the monorail and other fixed-guideway transportation systems “located within an independent special district created by local act which have boundaries within two contiguous counties.”
The bill, which does not mention Disney or its monorail, would also give the state the power to shut down the systems “to ensure safety and welfare of inspectors and the traveling public.”
DeSantis has signaled that he supports the measure.
“They exempted the monorail from any safety standards or inspections so they’re gonna go and make sure that the monorail is subject to oversight just like everything else would be in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said last week.
The Post has sought comment from Disney.
The monorail system, which opened in 1971, ferries 150,000 riders to and from Disney resorts and theme parks including the Grand Floridian, Epcot Center and the Polynesian Village.
Until now, Disney and its theme parks have conducted its own safety inspections of the monorail system thanks to a special carve-out stipulated in state law.
The bill was introduced just before Disney filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday alleging that DeSantis was waging “a relentless campaign to weaponize government power.”
The lawsuit was filed minutes after DeSantis’ hand-picked board nullified an agreement that gave Disney the authority to set its own zoning and upkeep policies throughout the 25,000 acres that host its theme parks.
In its lawsuit, Disney accuses the Republican governor of seeking to punish Disney as part of a campaign that was “orchestrated at every step.”
“Today’s action is the latest strike: At the Governor’s bidding, the State’s oversight board has purported to ‘void’ publicly noticed and duly agreed development contracts, which had laid the foundation for billions of Disney’s investment dollars and thousands of jobs,” Disney said in its court filing with US District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
“This government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional,” Disney said.
“But the Governor and his allies have made clear they do not care and will not stop.”
Disney cited several statements by DeSantis, including his vow to “void the development agreement” as well as “to look at things like taxes on the hotels,” “tolls on the roads,” “developing some of the property that the district owns” with “more amusement parks,” and even putting a “state prison” next to Walt Disney World.”
DeSantis and Disney have been locked in a feud over the company’s opposition to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which banned sex and gender identity education to youngsters through the third grade.
The governor and his GOP allies in the state legislature responded by stripping Disney of its self-governing status of the now-defunct Reedy Creek Improvement, which it had enjoyed for decades.
Disney CEO Bob Iger has called the retaliation against the company “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
The company employs roughly 75,000 people in the state.
State Republicans last year targeted Disney after it publicly clashed with DeSantis, widely considered a 2024 presidential candidate.
Florida lawmakers passed legislation that ended Disney’s virtual autonomy in developing 25,000 acres in central Florida where its theme parks are located.
But before the takeover by DeSantis’ appointees, Disney pushed through changes to the special tax district agreement that limit the board’s action for decades.
The tussle could boost DeSantis’ support among Republican voters, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found, but also hurt him among the wider electorate.
With Post Wires
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