Everything was bad about the attempt last year by Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature to cozy up to hard-line Cuban-American voters, and the state is better off after this week’s court ruling that keeps the law from taking effect.
House Bill 959 prohibited not just state government but any local government from doing business with a company that has any financial relationship, direct or indirect, with Cuba. Miami Cuban-American legislators who were behind the bill added Syria in a clumsy attempt to disguise their real target.
Whatever the title, the bill unconstitutionally expanded the federal embargo against Cuba. As a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Miami noted unanimously in upholding a trial court ruling, “The Cuba Amendment conflicts with federal law in several ways, and undermines the full purposes and objectives of the extensive and nuanced federal Cuban sanctions regime.” State law cannot trump federal law.
We are used to Gov. Scott and the Legislature needlessly running up legal bills. The courts have overturned or blocked laws that placed onerous regulations on voter-registration groups, privatized prisons and forced state workers and welfare recipients to be tested for drugs. Gov. Scott didn’t sue to block the Affordable Care Act, but he cheered on Attorney General Pam Bondi’s losing effort.
By signing the Cuba law, however, the “It’s working” governor ignored warnings that he could hurt the state’s economy. As the judges noted, Canada and Brazil are Florida’s largest trading partners, and both complained to the state that the law could hurt Canadian and Brazilian companies that operate in Florida and Cuba. The Board of Administration calculated that Florida would have to stop doing business with 238 companies, including “major airlines, banks, pharmaceuticals and oil companies.” Indeed, the lawsuit came from a Brazilian company hired for work at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The company does no business with Cuba, but foreign affiliates of its parent company do.
Only one legislator voted against the law, an impressive show of bipartisan pandering. The irony is that Washington’s half-century-old failed policy on Cuba has kept the governor and the Legislature from creating the state’s own failure on Cuba.
for The Post