Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fla. Gov. Rick Scott will sign bill banning governments from hiring companies tied to Cuba

Posted on Friday, 04.27.12


Fla. Gov. Rick Scott will sign bill banning governments from hiring
companies tied to Cuba

The governor called a Miami Spanish-language radio station to say he
plans to travel to South Florida to sign the legislation. The bill's
critics have said the law is unconstitutional.
By Patricia Mazzei

Gov. Rick Scott said on Friday that he intends to sign contentious
legislation that would ban the state and local governments from hiring
companies with business ties to Cuba and Syria.

"As we all know, the record of the Castro and Assad governments are
undeniably repressive," Scott said in a phone call to Spanish-language
radio station WAQI-AM (710), known as Radio Mambí. "I'm going to sign
legislation that protects Florida taxpayers from unintentionally
supporting dictatorships that commit such despicable acts."

The governor told host Ninoska Pérez Castellón that he will sign Florida
House Bill 959 on Tuesday in Miami. Later, Sweetwater Mayor Manny
Maroño's office issued an invitation "on behalf" of the governor to the
signing, for 11 a.m. at downtown's Freedom Tower, a symbolic setting for
the Cuban exiles who were processed there when they first entered the
United States.

In throwing his support behind Florida House Bill 959, Scott sided with
the nearly-unanimous Legislature. The legislation was authored by
Miami-Dade Republicans who argued taxpayer dollars should not fund
companies connected to oppressive regimes in Cuba and Syria.

Influential business interests, including the Florida Chamber of
Commerce and the governments of Florida's top two trading partners,
Brazil and Canada, have warned the law would discourage investment from
foreign firms. It is unclear which, or how many, companies would be
affected by the legislation.

On Thursday, the board of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce passed a
resolution urging the governor to veto the legislation, saying it would
deter efforts to attract new companies and jobs.

Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson, who has called the law
unconstitutional because foreign policy is a federal matter, said Friday
that while he agrees that companies should not work in places like Cuba,
the law could hurt the state's business-friendly reputation.

"We remain concerned about the constitutionality of it. We remain
concerned about unintended consequences," he said. "But it's impossible
to predict what the governor's message is going to be, how it's going to
be received."

"If there's some way we can assure the ambassadors and the trade
representatives from our large trading partners that we're going to work
to make sure this doesn't cause any damage — that's a really important
message here," he added.

Fourteen laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in the
past year ended up in court, and several others appear headed that way,
including the Cuba measure.

The usually pro-business governor, who spoke on radio only briefly, said
governments in Cuba and Syria "seek to harm U.S. interests at every turn."

"We know they actively support international terrorism," Scott said.
Host Pérez Castellón and her guests, who were airing the show live from
West Hialeah, applauded the governor.

Signing the legislation is an olive branch of sorts from Scott to
Miami-Dade's older Cuban Americans, a coveted voting bloc. Earlier this
month, as part of his vetoes to the state budget, the governor cut
$500,000 that had been set aside for a Bay of Pigs Museum — on the 51st
anniversary of the invasion. The veto did not go unnoticed by
Cuban-American politicians and radio hosts.

"Kudos to the governor; he put Florida taxpayers over foreign
interests," said Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the
Washington-based U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee that
pushed for the legislation. "He did the right thing."

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah and Rep.
Michael Bileca of Miami, appears aimed at Odebrecht, the Brazilian giant
whose Coral Gables-based, U.S. subsidiary has worked on some of South
Florida's biggest projects, including the Adrienne Arsht Center for the
Performing Arts, the American Airlines Arena and the North Terminal at
Miami International Airport. A separate subsidiary in Cuba is performing
major improvements to the Port of Mariel.

Once the governor signs the bill into law, it will go into effect on
July 1 and affect future state and local government contracts worth at
least $1 million. Odebrecht USA has been negotiating with Miami-Dade
aviation officials to build the proposed Airport City, a massive project
including two hotels, office and retail space on airport grounds.

The plan, under Federal Aviation Administration review, would have to
win approval from county commissioners. Several have already said they
are reluctant to award more projects to Odebrecht. The new law could
give them legal cover to back up their position.

County Attorney Robert Cuevas, however, has said Miami-Dade should not
enforce the new law because it conflicts with federal law.

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