A Republican-backed bill has been introduced in Congress to rescind the no-fly zones enforced over Disneyland and Walt Disney World since 2003.
The legislation’s sponsor is Rep. Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican. Nehls had previously sent letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, both Democrats, in May, noting that “No other theme parks have restrictions on airspace, including neighboring competitors” such as Universal parks in Orlando and Hollywood.
As explained in a 2014 Los Angeles Times article, Disney’s no-fly zone was enacted by Congress through a provision in a congressional spending bill passed before the Iraq war began. While Disney insisted it lobbied for the change solely out of post-9/11 concerns about terrorism, critics have long alleged the real goal was keeping out planes with advertising banners.
In fact, former Federal Aviation Administration chief Michael Huerta said in 2013 that if the Disney no-fly zone hadn’t been enacted by Congress, he would have eliminated it.
The proposal comes as conservative outrage towards Disney has grown over its public opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida. The backlash began with Florida Republicans passing a bill to dissolve the Disney-controlled governmental district that covers Disney World in 2023 and has extended to other federal legislation, such as Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, vowing to not extend copyright protections just as the original version of Mickey Mouse is set to enter the public domain in 2024.
While Hawley and other Florida Republicans have been open about seeking to punish Disney — “No more handouts for woke corporations,” Hawley wrote on Twitter — Nehls did not mention any other motivation in his earlier letter about the no-fly zone.
For now, the legislation has little chance of going anywhere. Democrats control both chambers as well as the White House. Nehls, a freshman on Capitol Hill, has sponsored or cosponsored 127 bills or resolutions, only four of which have been signed into law.
Spokespersons for Nehls and Disney did not immediately return requests for comment.