Cinderella Castle with airplanes around
Credit: Canva Creation

Congress moves forward with another jab at Disney, aiming to remove a 20-year statute from its U.S. theme parks

The battle between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continues, and now members of the federal legislature are stepping in and taking their own measures to make a statement to the House of Mouse, this time proposing legislation to end a nearly 20-year statute at Disney World and Disneyland.

cinderella castle with airplane

Credit: DisneyDining

Congressman Troy Nehls (R-TX) immediately went to work on attempts to remove the “no-fly zone” status in the skies over the Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California.

Representative Nehls penned letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg regarding Disney’s current restricted airspace. The flight restriction was put into place in 2003 and not in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, as many believe.

It’s why Guests can look up into the skies over Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Disney Springs, and they won’t see any airliners.

In his letter to Buttigieg, Congressman Nehls points out that Disney is the only theme park resort owner to have such privileges.

“In 2003, Congress passed Section 352 of Public Law 108-7, which was later amended by Section521 of Public Law 108-199. These acts created permanent “temporary” flight restrictions in the airspace over Disney’s resorts in Florida and California. These restrictions only applied to Disney’s parks. No other theme parks have restrictions on airspace, including neighboring competitors like Universal Studios.”


Credit: The Texas Tribune

In his letter, Nehls calls the no-fly zones “preferential treatment” to Disney, saying U. S. Disney Parks don’t meet the standard requirements for having the status. He also asks for a response from Buttigieg’s office by June 3, 2022.

On Monday, according to The Daily Caller, Nehls introduced legislation that, if passed, would require the Secretary of Transportation to abolish the no-fly zones over both U. S. Disney Parks. Called the Airline’s Independent of Restrictions Act, or AIR Act, the proposed legislation has 5 co-sponsors: Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde, California Rep. Doug LaMalfa, Florida Rep. Scott Perry, and Florida Rep. Gregory Steube.

Just before introducing the new legislation, Nehls gave a statement to The Daily Caller, saying, “the federal government should not grant special privileges and pick favorites for powerful, well-connected companies like Disney.” He went on to say that “measures designed to protect our national security and public safety should not be co-opted by corporations looking to gain.

It’s been months since Florida passed the controversial Parental Rights in Education law–a move that set a chain of events into motion, beginning with an inflammatory public statement from The Walt Disney Company immediately following news that the bill was signed into law.

In the statement, Disney criticized DeSantis’s move, saying the bill “should never have passed” and that the company’s goal “is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis immediately fired back, saying, “For Disney to say that the bill should have never passed and that they are going to actively work to repeal it–I think one, was fundamentally dishonest, but two, I think that crossed the line.”

RELATED: The Disney-DeSantis Debacle is a Dumpster Fire, and the Stench is Horrific

DeSantis took things a step further, saying that Disney’s “woke ideology” could cost the company its special privileges in the Sunshine State, referring to Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District in parts of Orange and Osceola Counties, which allows the company to function as its own government. Within days, members of the Florida legislature introduced a bill that would effectively dissolve any Florida special districts–like Reedy Creek–that were created prior to the ratification of Florida’s state constitution in 1968.

The bill quickly passed in Florida’s House and Senate and was signed into law by DeSantis in the last days of April, and will take effect July 1, 2023.

Reedy Creek

Credit: Wikipedia

RELATED: Disney World has little over a year to build the Walter Elias Disney International Airport at Disney World, thanks to new Florida law

In response to Florida’s “treatment of Disney,” governors from other states like Colorado and California posted proverbial welcome mats on social media, letting Disney know they could move to these states and be welcomed with open arms. A judge in South Texas went so far as to pen a letter to Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek, inviting him and the company to open a brand-new theme park resort in the Lone Star State following the passing of Florida’s new law.

fort bend county disney

Credit: Disney/Canva Creation

At the same time, some members of the federal legislature stepped into the ring with Disney and DeSantis, taking aim at the company’s rights to Steamboat Willie, which are set to expire in 2023, saying they won’t take steps to extend Disney’s rights (as they did in the late 1980s) in response to Disney’s stance on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law.

It remains to be seen how far the state and federal governments will go in using their power to take power from The Walt Disney Company.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!