MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In a move that could send the state of Florida into a clash with the federal government, Governor Rick Scott said Friday he will sign a bill that makes it illegal for Florida tax dollars to be spent on companies that do business directly or indirectly with Cuba.
The bill signing will take place at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, a symbol for the exile experience in Florida, and will complete the efforts of two South Florida lawmakers who sponsored the bill in the 2012 legislative session.
Not only does the bill direct the state how to spend money, it also bans local governments from using public funds to hire companies that deal with Cuba as well as Syria, a government widely held to be a state sponsor of terrorism.
The bill got almost unanimous support in the legislature, with very little outside buzz, and despite a last minute campaign to convince Scott to veto it the bill’s future as law was never really in doubt.
Canadian officials have warned Scott that passing the bill could seriously damage Florida’s trading relationship with Canada, with Canadian businesses much less likely to trade with Florida. Canada is a significant Cuban trading partner.
The government of Brazil also expressed similar concerns. The Florida Chamber of Commerce has flatly called the bill unconstitutional.
Miami-Dade County Attorney Roger Cuevas has urged the county not to enforce the bill, saying it is at odds with federal law.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah and Rep. Michael Bileca of Miami and appeared to be directed at one major company, Brazil’s Odebrecht. The company’s Miami-based US subsidiary has built a number of the largest projects in South Florida, but because it’s parent company does business with Cuba, it’s days as a major construction player in Florida would appear to be numbered.
Governor Scott has referred to this as ‘consumer protection legislation’.