Delving into Miami-Dade’s tricky exile politics, Florida lawmakers passed sweeping but little-noticed legislation this session prohibiting local governments from hiring companies that do business with Cuba.
The law appears to target one of the county’s largest contractors: Odebrecht USA, the Coral Gables-based subsidiary of the giant Brazilian conglomerate. The parent company’s Cuban affiliate is participating in a major expansion at the Port of Mariel.
Miami-Dade legislators, with near-unanimous support of the Florida House of Representatives and Senate, pushed the bill as a way to keep taxpayer dollars out of the hands of repressive regimes. The law also applies to companies that work in Syria, which, like Cuba, is on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
“It puts the decision on the companies that are affected,” said Rep. Michael Bileca, a Miami Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors. “Do they want to do business in Florida, or do they want to do business in these countries?”
Yet a major portion of the legislation, which applies to contracts worth at least $1 million, seems likely to face a court challenge for interfering with the federal government’s power to set foreign policy, experts said.
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. More here.