Monorail at EPCOT

Florida Senate Approves Monorail Inspections at Walt Disney World Resort

The Florida Senate passed a bill today that would mean that the Florida government would have oversight and the responsibility to inspect the Walt Disney World Resort monorail system. This comes as things continue to escalate between Florida Governor DeSantis and Disney with lawsuits from Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District being filed against each other this week.

The bill, HB 1305, passed in the Republican-controlled Senate passed 26-14 along mostly party lines. One of the provisions in this bill requires the Florida Department of Transportation to inspect Walt Disney World Resort’s monorails. The Florida House of Representatives already passed a transportation bill last week which did not include the monorail measure. Because of this, the bill will have to go back to the House and be approved there before moving to Governor DeSantis’ desk to be signed into law.

According to Senate Transportation Chairman Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach, this is all “about safety.”

“I personally, obviously, don’t think it is unreasonable for a monorail system that carries 150,000 people a day to have the state and their experts oversee in, what I think, is a very reasonable process that they have,” DiCeglie said.

The bill technically doesn’t single out Walt Disney World Resort’s monorail system. However, the language of those who have put it forward has all pointed toward Disney and its monorail system. This includes both Governor DeSantis and other leaders in the Florida government. The bill technically states that it covers  “any governmentally or privately owned fixed-guideway transportation systems operating in this state which are located within an independent special district created by a local act which have boundaries within two contiguous counties.”

Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, was against the bill and called it “retaliatory.” Not all Republicans agreed with this initiative either. Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, and Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, both crossed party lines to vote against the bill. Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Hollywood, also criticized the targeting of a specific company saying, “is really bad. It’s really bad politically. It’s really bad philosophically.” Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, added her concern and questioned why businesses would want to come to Florida “knowing that retribution could come at any time they cross the governor.”

This is the most recent escalation in the continuing feud between DeSantis and Disney. This began when Disney came out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill last year. This led to Governor DeSantis leading the state in initiatives that Disney has called “retaliatory.” This includes the dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District and its replacement with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. This new district has board members that were hand-picked by DeSantis. It also has included active efforts to break a development agreement that was made by Disney and Reedy Creek before it was replaced with the new district. DeSantis and the board have argued that this was done in secret, however, the record shows differently with the agreement being included in the minutes and also being advertised publicly in local newspapers.

Currently, Disney has filed its lawsuit in Federal Court and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has filed its lawsuit in Florida State Court. Both of these lawsuits boil down to each side looking to get its way in regards to control of the district with Disney wanting things going back to what it was before Florida’s retaliatory measures and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District looking to prevail over all of Disney’s initiatives and overturn the development agreement.

The new bill that was passed by the Senate basically applies the rules that are applied to state-owned transportation to private transportation that are on a fixed-guideway system. This also applies to privately owned but funded by the state in any way. The bill would also require compliance reports every three years and also an annual onsite evaluation.

What do you think about this new transportation bill that is making its way through the Florida legislature? Is it retaliatory or is it simply a safety measure? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.