The war between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company is moving back to the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature, where DeSantis is pushing a bill that could carve out an exception to major theme parks doing their own safety inspections for rides.
Current Florida law exempts theme parks from state inspections if they have more than 1,000 employees and full-time inspectors of their own. In practice, that has allowed major operators like Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld to self-inspect their rides for safety concerns, reporting only injuries that are fatal or require a guest to stay in a hospital for 24 hours or more.
DeSantis wants to change that after the once-Disney-controlled government district covering Disney World passed an agreement in its final days undercutting the authority of the new DeSantis-controlled board. The state takeover of the board was itself motivated by Disney’s public opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, and DeSantis suggested Monday that a new inspection law would likely only target Disney.
“I think what the Legislature is going to do is apply that to special districts,” DeSantis said.
Florida State Rep. Carolina Amesty, a Republican from Windermere whose district includes Disney World, also made it clear that the new proposal was motivated by Disney’s politics.
“It’s time for Disney executives to have a sober conversation and retake the company from the woke ideologues who hijacked it,” Amnesty said.
DeSantis went as far as to joke about what else the state could do close to Disney World as a further response to Disney’s actions.
“If you look at this whole special district, Walt Disney Corporation obviously owns a lot of it, but the district owns other land,” he said. “Now people are like, what should we do with this land? People have said: Maybe create a state park, maybe try to do more amusement parks. Someone even said maybe you need another state prison. Who knows? I just think that the possibilities are endless.”
In an email to Theme Park Tribune, Disney did not provide any new, on-the-record statement responding to DeSantis’ remarks. Disney CEO Bob Iger had previously criticized the governor’s actions, saying, “About a year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation and while the company may not have handled the position it took well, a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do…The governor got very angry about the position Disney took and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business.”
The board picked by DeSantis to run what is now called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is set to meet again Wednesday.