09/05/13 - Miami Herald - Florida won't appeal ruling
The state of Florida has conceded it will not enforce a law - ruled
unconstitutional by federal courts - that tried to prohibit the state and
local governments from hiring companies with business ties to Cuba.
The Florida Department of Transportation's decision not to contest the June
ruling by a federal appeals court marks the end of the short-lived
legislation. It also paves the way for Odebrecht USA, the Coral
Gables-based firm that challenged the law, to proceed with significant
projects in the works - unless politics get in the way.
FDOT and Odebrecht agreed late last month to allow the federal trial court
that struck down the legislation last year to enter an injunction
permanently blocking the law from taking effect. A preliminary injunction
had been in place since U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore found in June
2012 that the legislation interfered with the federal government's
authority to set foreign policy.
"This means FDOT cannot enforce the law," FDOT Communications Director Dick
Kane said in an email Thursday.
Though the injunction is aimed only at FDOT, it effectively applies to
every state agency, said Jim Moye, an Odebrecht attorney.
"The federal government is going to continue to establish whatever it
believes is the proper relationship with Cuba," said Moye, of the
Orlando-based Moye O'Brien firm. "Our client will continue to comply with
the laws in that regard. It's not for the state or local governments to
attempt to set the parameters for the relationship with Cuba."
FDOT chose not to go to trial to try to show why the preliminary injunction
should be lifted. Instead, it agreed with the permanent prohibition and
will reimburse Odebrecht about $500,000 in attorneys' fees, Moye said.
The legislation would have forbidden government agencies from awarding
contracts worth at least $1 million to U.S. firms whose foreign-owned
parent companies or subsidiaries work in Cuba or Syria. Though Odebrecht
USA has no business in either country, an affiliate of its giant Brazilian
parent is performing a major expansion at the Cuban Port of Mariel.
Without any ties to Syria, Odebrecht did not challenge the law in regards
to that country, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals limited its
ruling to Cuba.
The law's demise is the latest in a string of legislation signed by
Republican Gov. Rick Scott that has ended up in the courts. Federal judges
have invalidated the scope of a state employee drug-testing program, a
requirement making it more difficult for groups to register new voters and
a ban on physicians asking patients about gun ownership.
The drug-testing program has been sent back to the trial court, and the
state has appealed the ruling in favor of physicians.
While hardly the only Florida company with indirect ties to Cuba, Odebrecht
became the target of Sen. René García and Rep. Michael Bileca, the Miami
Republican lawmakers who sponsored the legislation. It received
near-unanimous support in Tallahassee. The governor signed it into law, but
drew harsh criticism for suggesting the legislation might be
unconstitutional. His administration vowed to defend it.
State law already imposes restrictions on hiring firms that work in Iran
and Sudan, which, along with Cuba and Syria, are considered state sponsors
of terrorism. But the federal government expressly authorizes hiring
limitations relating to Iran and Sudan, not the other two countries.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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