State Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah (Pic by Meredith Hill, via myfloridahouse.gov)

A little-noticed piece of legislation that recently passed the state legislature will prohibit local governments from hiring companies that do business with Cuba or Syria. Despite its passage, experts warn that the bill is likely to face a court challenge.

The bill, which was sponsored by State Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, calls on the state to “divest of companies that are doing business with the tyrannies of Cuba and Syria and prohibits the state of Florida, its agencies or local government entities from awarding public contracts to companies involved in business operation with these terrorist states.”

“The Florida Legislature sent a clear message that the state will no longer tolerate doing business with companies that do business with tyrannical regimes while they seek to profit from the Florida taxpayer,” said Garcia, in a press release sent out today. “This bill closes a loophole in our state law and conveys that our state will stand with the victims of repression in Cuba and Syria.”

As the Miami Herald reported last week, some experts have pointed out that the legislation is likely to face a court challenge for interfering with the federal government’s power to set foreign policy.

From the Herald:

Statutes limiting local governments’ contracting decisions based on the vendor’s international work oversteps a state’s power, said Dan O’Flaherty, vice president of the Washington D.C.-based National Foreign Trade Council, which advocates trade with Cuba.

“It’s unconstitutional,” he said, citing a 2000 Trade Council case in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law restricting state businesses from dealing with companies with ties to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

“States are barred by the Supreme Court decision from enacting procurement sanctions targeting companies doing business in foreign country ‘X,’ ” added O’Flaherty, whose organization sent letters to Gov. Rick Scott and House and Senate leaders in opposition.

The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Michael Bileca, R-Miami. It passed with near-unanimous support of both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate.

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