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Miami-Dade attorney: Florida law restricting hiring of companies with business ties to Cuba 'inoperative'

Miami-Dade should not enforce a new state law that prohibits the hiring of companies with business ties to Cuba because it conflicts with federal law, according to an opinion issued Wednesday by the county’s chief attorney.

Robert Cuevas concluded that the terms of Florida House Bill 959 that refer to Cuba cannot be enforced until the federal government authorizes states to enact such procurement limitations, or a federal court finds the law constitutional.

He based his opinion on legal precedent — including federal rulings in Florida and Miami-Dade cases — holding that state and local governments cannot interfere with the federal government’s ability to set foreign policy, echoing critics of the law who have called it unconstitutional.

Federal law already prohibits American companies from doing business with Cuba, via the U.S. trade embargo on the island. The new state law, among other things, prevents local governments from hiring foreign firms that work in Cuba, directly or through affiliates, for contracts worth at least $1 million.

It appears pointed at one of Miami-Dade’s largest contractors: Odebrecht USA, the Coral Gables-based subsidiary of the giant Brazilian conglomerate. Another subsidiary of the firm is performing major upgrades to the Port of Mariel in Cuba.

The law, which was sponsored by Miami-Dade legislators and received near-unanimous support in Tallahassee, is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature or veto. The governor could also let the legislation go into effect July 1 without signing it. More here.