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Florida Appeals Court Order Blocking Cuba Contractor Law

Florida officials are appealing a U.S. court order blocking enforcement of a state law barring government agencies from entering into contracts worth $1 million or more with companies that do business with Cuba.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, signed the legislation into law on May 1. It also applies to businesses with operations in Syria.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore in Miami last month temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the measure, which was to take effect July 1. Moore said similar statutes had been struck down by courts in Miami and in Massachusetts.

“The Castro and Assad governments are undeniably repressive,” Scott said a statement announcing the appeal yesterday, referring to Cuban President Raul Castro and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “It is important that Florida taxpayers do not support dictators that suppress freedom.”

Odebrecht Construction Inc. sued the Florida Department of Transportation to challenge the law, which the company said would prevent it from taking government contracts because it’s a wholly owned unit of a Brazilian company that works in Cuba.

James Moye, a lawyer for the company, argued at a June 25 hearing that the law prevents Odebrecht, “which is in complete compliance with all federal regulations, from bidding on state contracts.”

Paul J. Martin, an attorney for Florida’s transportation department, said at the June 25 hearing that the state has a right to decide where to spend its money.

Contractor Dollars

“The state of Florida no longer wishes to spend its contractor dollars with companies which are affiliated with companies that do business with Cuba,” he said.

In his June 29 order, Moore said there was a “substantial likelihood that the Cuba amendment will be found unconstitutional” because it clashes with the federal government’s power over foreign affairs.

The case is Odebrecht Construction Inc. v. Prasad, 12-cv-22072, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).

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