Politics /

Republican Congressman Wants to Strip Disney of Their No-Fly Zone Privilege Over Theme Parks

Texas Congressman Troy E. Nehls is looking into ending Disney’s special no-fly zone privilege over their resorts — a perk granted to no other theme parks in the nation.

Congressman Nehls told Timcast that “major corporations should not get unreasonable privileges just because they have the ability to bankroll Congress, especially when they are trying to force their ideology on our children.”

Rep. Nehls sent letters to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday demanding to know why Disney gets this special treatment, while not even their neighbors including Universal Studios receive the same. His office said that “while most flight restricted areas in the United States reside over places of high security or hazardous regions, Disney is the only theme park that benefits from the restriction for the commercial gains of eliminating banner ads and disruptive aircrafts from their parks.”

“[The Federal Aviation Administration’s] flight restrictions add complexity and restrict freedom—they should be reserved for compelling national security and safety needs,” said Congressman Nehls in the letter. “…unfortunately, special interests may have hijacked the agency’s mandate, in the sheep’s clothing of national security, for commercial gain.”

In 2003, Congress passed Section 352 of Public Law 108-7, which was later amended by Section 521 of Public Law 108-199. These acts created permanent “temporary” flight restrictions in the airspace over Disney’s resorts in Florida and California. In his letter, Congressman Nehls pointed out that unlike their competitors, like Universal or Six Flags, Disney Parks are the only theme parks that benefit from the restriction.

“Measures designed for protecting our national security and public safety must not be co-opted by companies looking to gain,” said Congressman Nehls in the letter. “Given that almost 20 years have passed since the designation of these “temporary” flight restrictions and the long-standing controversy around their creation, I ask that the House reconsider their appropriateness.

Rep. Nehls additionally pointed to the 2013 testimony from then-President Barack Obama’s Federal Aviation Administration administrator Michael Huerta, who said, “Disney’s ‘no-fly zones’ do not meet standard requirements and would not be in place has Congress not enacted specific legislation.”

“Other independent observers have long questioned the security rationale for these ‘no-fly zones,’” Nehls wrote. “In 2003, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the decision ‘angered pilots across the country who accuse Disney of manipulating the nation’s terrorism fear for one clear commercial aim: to close public airspace over its parks as a way to ban competitors’ aerial advertising planes and sightseeing helicopters.’”

The battle between the GOP and Disney began after the entertainment giant publicly condemned Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, which was misleadingly labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents. In protest of the legislation, the company suspended political donations in the state and vowed to instead support organizations working to oppose the law.

The law in question prohibits the teaching of gender identity or sexual orientation to students in third grade and below.

In response, Florida passed legislation that would end Disney’s tax privilege and self-governing power over the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

“I was shocked to see some of the stuff that’s in there. They can do their own nuclear power plant. Is there any other private company in the state that can just build a nuclear power plant on their own?” Governor Ron DeSantis said during a press conference last month. “They’re able to do certain things that nobody else is able to do. So I think they’re right to be looking at this and reevaluating and having an even playing field for everybody, I think is much better than basically to allow one company to be a law onto itself.”

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