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Bills on travel records, monorail signed

By Jim Turner and Ryan Dailey

News Service of Florida

May 11, 2023

TALLAHASSEE --- Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed 37 bills, including a measure that will prevent the release of past and future travel records of DeSantis and other state leaders.

DeSantis also signed bills that will lead to the state inspecting Walt Disney World’s monorail system and require school districts to share local property-tax revenues with charter schools.

The Republican-controlled Legislature voted along party lines to pass a bill (SB 1616) that provides a public-records exemption for travel records of DeSantis, the governor’s immediate family, the lieutenant governor, Cabinet members, the House speaker, the Senate president and the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

Democrats said the exemption would go beyond travel itineraries and also prevent the release of information about where the governor went and who attended meetings and events. Republicans countered the measure would help with security, as it would prevent people from being able to map out travel plans of DeSantis and other officials.

During an appearance last week in Titusville, DeSantis said he didn’t “come up” with the travel-records proposal.

“With the security situation, how you do patterns of movements, if you’re somebody that is targeted, which unfortunately I am, and I get a lot of threats, that could be something that could be helpful for people that may not want to do good things,” DeSantis said.

Anders Croy, communications director of a DeSantis opposition group, DeSantis Watch, said in a Twitter post Thursday that the bill was signed a day before DeSantis begins “political trips to Illinois (and) Iowa, (and) amid reports of upcoming donor dinners at the Governor's Mansion.” DeSantis has been traveling across the country as he prepares for a potential 2024 presidential campaign.

The bill, which took effect immediately, also will keep from the public the names of people visiting the governor’s mansion on non-governmental matters.

Lawmakers passed the 37 bills during a legislative session that ended last week.

One of several educational pieces signed into law Thursday will provide charter schools a new avenue of “capital outlay” funding to purchase land and facilities (HB 1259).

House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, touted the bill last month as putting charters on “equal footing” with traditional public schools.

“By ensuring that both traditional public schools and public charter schools receive funding to provide a safe environment in which our children can learn, we are putting them on equal footing to encourage competition and raise the level of excellence in all of our schools,” Renner said after the House passed the bill April 26.

Charter schools have largely received capital-outlay funding through the state budget. Starting July 1, districts will be required to share portions of tax revenues using a formula factoring in charter-school enrollment against overall district enrollment.

Another education bill (HB 891) signed Thursday will establish a year-round school pilot program at a limited number of elementary schools. The program will run for four years starting in the 2024-2025 school year.

The state education commissioner will pick districts to participate.

The bill about Disney monorail inspections (HB 1305) came amid a feud between DeSantis and Disney that started last year when the company opposed a law that restricts instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

Under the bill, the Department of Transportation, starting July 1, will be required to complete compliance reports for the monorail every three years and conduct annual onsite evaluations.

Disney and other large theme parks currently conduct their own safety inspections because of a carve-out from oversight by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Disney is the only property affected by the bill.

Another bill signed Thursday (SB 902) is designed to bolster the safety of amusement rides, including leading to extra training of ride operators and updated reporting on maintenance and ride modifications. The bill is named after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who was killed when he fell from a ride last year in Orlando.

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