Ninety miles south of Miami there is a nation harboring "terrorist...drug dealers...cop killers," Rep. David Rivera, told House members Wednesday night in one last plea to approve his bill taking aim at travel agents selling trips to Cuba.
With three days left in the session, Rivera was successful in getting his "Sellers of Travel" bill passed through the legislature Wednesday night. The measure requires travel agencies selling trips to countries deemed "terrorist nations" by the U.S. State Department, to register with the state for a fee of $2,500, and place up to $300,000 in bond money.
Rivera's bill made its way through the session, despite numerous tongue lashings from Miami based travel agents lambasting the measure as "pandering" during committee meetings, and some legislators questioning the need for state regulation of a business already regulated by the federal government.
The senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Carey Baker, a Eustis Republican, passed in the Senate earlier Wednesday afternoon, positioning it for final passage in the House.
Also chiming in on the bill during debate, was Rep. Eduardo "Eddy" Gonzalez, a Hialeah Republican, who was born in Cuba but left the country as a youngster. Gonzalez said the bill was necessary to make it harder on Cuban visitors opting to only stay in the country for a couple of months.
"We should make it as difficult as for those people to go back," Gonzalez said. "People who want to go back after three or four months should stay there."
The measure comes a day after Cuban government officials announced a 15% hike in foreign tourism to the island.