Scott signs Cuba trade restriction law

By Glenna Milberg - Reporter

MIAMI - Minutes after signing a bill banning state dollars and contracts from companies that also do business with Cuba, Florida Governor Rick Scott transmitted a letter to the Secretary of State indicating that it may not be enforceable without permission under federal law.

"Because such a conflict may exist, the restrictions will not go into effect unless and until Congress passes, and President Obama signs, a law permitting states to independently impose such sanctions against Cuba and Syria," wrote Scott.

Scott signed the bill into law during a ceremony at noon Tuesday at the Freedom Tower, a symbolic location as the first stop in the United States for the earliest Cuban exiles.  He received standing ovations from hundreds of South Florida local, state, and federal lawmakers, some of whom admit to lobbying him hard to sign the bill.

"Taxpayers should not be investing in companies that continuously prop up these regimes," said Republican State Senator Rene Garcia, one of the bill's sponsors.

It posed a tough sell to the governor who campaigned as pro-business and getting Florida "Back to Work."

"I think there are almost 300 bills that come to me," said Scott. "What I do is I wait, I get the bill, I read the bill, I have a team that helps me analyze these bills to make sure I understand them and I make my decision."

The law could affect more than 200 companies in Florida.  Arguably the biggest is Coral Gables based Odebrecht USA, the company that has built Miami airport terminals, the Adrienne Arsht Center, the Miami Intermodal Center, American Airlines Arena, and major Port Miami projects.  

Another Odebrecht affiliate, whose parent company is based in Brazil, is renovating Cuba's Port of Mariel.

Scott, who has made trade trips to Brazil, Miami-Dade's largest trading partner, said he spoke to the company's head Monday night.

"I told them I was going to sign the bill," he said. "They would like me not to."

At least one South Florida lawmaker, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, expects court challenges.

"Will this become a Supreme Court case?  I don't know'" said Ros-Lehtinen. "I don't say I'm in favor of spending a lot of money on litigation, but it's always the right thing to do on the right issue."

The business and trade groups who lobbied heavily against the bill did not attend the signing ceremony.

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