Governor DeSantis Concedes Disney Doesn’t Have To Obey New Laws

in Walt Disney World

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking during a televised interview, with an american flag in the background.

Credit: DeSantis

The Walt Disney World Resort managed to duck new state regulation of its vast parking and pricing structures, thanks to its former sworn enemy, Florida Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis.

DeSantis speaking with a Disney castle in the background.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Only weeks ago, the idea of Disney World and Governor DeSantis working to not interfere with each other’s business would have seemed laughable. The two parties cooperatively working together would have seemed even more impossible, but a lot has happened in a very short period after Disney and the DeSantis-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Board of Supervisors came to an unexpected legal settlement.

Disney World and Ron DeSantis have been butting heads ever since former Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against the Parental Rights in Education Act, the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law that helped launch the governor as a darling of the far-right. In the wake of DeSantis’ allegedly revenge-fueled dissolution of the Reedy Creek Improvement District (where the majority of Disney World is located), lawsuit after lawsuit was filed and a lot of accusations of incompetence, corruption, cronyism, and inside-dealing were thrown around in public.

Ron DeSantis over the CFTOD logo

But, practically out of nowhere, the CFTOD board (which constantly struggles to maintain its membership, but that’s another matter) announced that it had reached a settlement with Disney. According to the agreement, both parties would shelve their lawsuit, agree to maintain the former Reedy Creek as it currently exists, and basically agree that no one was really in the wrong about the whole situation. That is, until a Federal lawsuit appeal has to be dealt with.

Related: Inside the Magic Asks: Who Won Disney vs. DeSantis?

But that’s not for another 60 days; in the meantime, a surprising amount of cooperation between Disney and DeSantis is taking place. The governor recently committed billions of taxpayer dollars to upgrade the Interstate 4 Highway that leads directly to Disney World, which undoubtedly will benefit the planet’s most popular theme park, especially since that particular stretch tends to deal with some unusual activity.

It has also emerged that in the recent dramatic proxy battle between CEO Bob Iger and billionaire activist Nelson Peltz, Ron DeSantis was covertly on the list of Disney allies. Through his position as a trustee of Florida’s vast pension plan investment scheme, DeSantis helped Iger remain in control of the company; that’s is a very abrupt turnaround in corporate-state relations.

A collage of Bob Iger and Ron DeSantis together
Credit: Inside the Magic

Now, Governor DeSantis has signed a new bill into law that will harshly enforce new regulations and restrictions for private parking. As one might expect, the Walt Disney World Resort has vast tracts of land devoted to parking for its Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom theme parks. It also makes, conservatively estimated, tens of millions of dollars in income from charging Guests every year.

The official parking information page for Disney World breaks it down:

Guests pay one fee for a parking pass that is good all day at all 4 theme parks—Magic Kingdom park, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. Our special preferred parking lots are located conveniently close to the theme park entrances. All parking fees include applicable sales tax.

Standard parking: car or motorcycle – $30 per day
Preferred parking: car or motorcycle – $45, $50 or $55 per day*
Oversized Vehicle Parking: Shuttle, Limo, Camper Trailer, RV, Bus or Tractor Trailer – $35 per day
Standard theme park parking is included for registered Guests of Disney Resort hotels and select Annual Passholders. These Guests can also choose to enjoy preferred parking by paying the difference in cost between their included standard parking and preferred parking (difference is currently $15 to $25 per day*).

Parking fees are nonrefundable, including preferred parking fees. Parking is limited and subject to availability. Paying a parking fee does not guarantee parking availability if a Guest leaves and returns to the same theme park later in the day or if a Guest visits a different theme park.

You can do the math for how those $30, $45, $50, or $55 charges a day rack up if even a percentage of Disney World’s estimated 58 million annual visitors need to park a vehicle. Fortunately, Disney and Florida’s other theme parks will not have to follow any of the new parking regulations designed to benefit consumers. Only a few months ago, this kind of bill would likely have been used as a punitive measure against Disney, but now, an entire exception has been carved out for the theme park, thanks to DeSantis.

disney world crowds (left) disney parking lot (right)
Left Image Credit: ITM / Right Image Credit: Bioreconstruct

Related: Ron Desantis Teams up With Florida to Tackle Disney World Price Hikes

Governor DeSantis has signed Florida HB 271: Motor Vehicle Parking on Private Property into law. It is intended to help protect Florida residents from predatory practices by private parking businesses, which have included hiring collection agencies to recover fee debts, hefty administrative fees and additional costs, and asset seizures and garnished wages.

The Miami City Commission even passed an emergency order to stop private parking owners from issuing tickets made to look like official fines, which read, “These fake parking tickets are designed to look like real Miami-Dade County parking tickets in form and appearance and even have the orange stripe that is identical to the official Miami-Dade County Uniform Parking Citation.”

The bill signed by DeSantis:

Requires signage containing the rules and rates for parking facilities to be posted in a manner that is legible and clearly visible when entering the area used for parking, requires certain information be contained on the signage, and permits the signage to be regulated by the county or municipality in which the property is located. 

Requires any invoice for parking charges to be placed on the vehicle in a prominent location or be mailed within five business days of the violation.

Requires all invoices issued by the owner or operator to include an appeal process adjudicated by a neutral third-party to be available to any party believing to have received the invoice in error.

Busses lined up in a Walt Disney World parking lot at the Transportation and Ticket Center.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Prohibits the owner or operator of a privately-owned parking facility from assessing a late fee until the latter of 15 days after the date an appeal is denied or 30 days after the invoice was placed on the motor vehicle or postmarked date of mailing.

Provides an exemption from the appeals process for parking facilities owned or operated by a theme park or entertainment complex.

Establishes a 15-minute grace period in which the owner or operator of a privately-owned parking facility may not charge vehicle operators that enter the parking facility, provided the vehicle does not park.

Prohibits the owners or operators of parking facilities from selling, offering to sell, or transferring to another person for sale the personal information of any party using the private property for parking.

Provides that the provisions of the bill do not apply to owners or operators of a lodging park, mobile home park, or recreational vehicle park provided certain requirements are met.

However, Disney World is exempt from all of these restrictions (as in bold type above), meaning these consumer protections won’t get in the way of business. It turns out that having DeSantis on your side can have some nice benefits.

Do you think Disney World should have to follow the same parking rules as any other business? Tell us in the comments below!

View Comment (1)