Rick Scott Signs Embargo on Business Contracts with Cuba and Syria

By: Jim Turner | Posted: May 2, 2012 3:55 AM
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Rep. David Rivera joined Gov. Rick Scott at the Freedom Tower in Miami, Florida on May 1, 2012 for the signing of House Bill 959.

Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation Tuesday designed to punish companies that do business with Cuba or Syria. Both nations are on the U.S. State Department list of “state sponsors of terrorism.

For a symbolic flourish, Scott signed the bill, House Bill 959, in the Freedom Tower in Miami, a building that once served as a processing center by the federal government for refugees fleeing Fidel Castro’s communist regime.

“The records of the Castro and Assad governments are undeniably oppressive, and have worked in ways that are counter to American interests,” Scott stated in a release. “The legislation I’m signing today is designed to protect Florida taxpayers from unintentionally supporting dictators that suppress freedom and the rights of individuals, but we must have a federal partner that will permit this law to become operative.”

HB 959 would prohibit Florida and governments in the Sunshine State from contracting or maintaining contracts of $1 million or more with companies that are also dealing with the governments in Cuba and Syria.

Among many business organizations throughout the state, the Greater Tampa Area Chamber of Commerce requested Scott veto the bill.

“This law sends a bad message to the companies from Canada and Brazil that Florida is not that open for business,” Bob Rohrlack, Greater Tampa Area Chamber president and CEO, responded in an email.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has questioned the constitutionality of the bill and expressed that the effort could hurt the state economically with two of its larger trading partners, Canada and Brazil.

“While we believe Florida should do everything we can within our Constitution to push for a free Cuba and Syria, free from government bombing of its own citizens, we support the federal government in their pursuit of those goals and remain concerned that Florida creating its own foreign policy potentially sends a negative message to our major trading partners such as Brazil, Canada and Colombia,” Edie Ousley, Florida Chamber vice president of public affairs, responded in an email.

“This bill is likely unconstitutional and may have unintended consequences with our international trading partners. The Florida Chamber will continue to monitor the situation.”

Scott addressed the constitutional question in his signing statement.

“The federal government has enacted extensive laws and regulations governing relations and foreign commerce with Cuba and Syria,” Scott wrote. “As governor, it is my duty to faithfully execute the laws of the state of Florida and to uphold the Constitution of Florida and the United States. I am, therefore, signing this bill because I believe that the Florida Legislature drafted it in such a way that the contracting prohibitions in Section 2 avoid any conflict with federal laws governing relations and foreign commerce with Cuba and Syria.”

Scott would add that the state law would be lifted when the federal law is lifted.

The bill was strongly sponsored by South Florida Republicans and only a single legislator -- Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami -- voted against the proposal.

A prime target of the bill is apparently Coral Gables-based Odebrecht USA, an affiliate of the Brazilian company Odebrecht. Last year, Odebrecht USA won a highly publicized $57 million contract to strengthen cargo wharves in the Port of Miami. Meanwhile, another branch of the company performs work in Cuba.

In his signing statement, Scott also wrote:

“Among other things, this legislation addresses contractual relationships between Florida government entities and companies that have business operations in Cuba and Syria. The governments of Cuba and Syria are two of only four U.S.-designated 'State Sponsors of Terrorism,' and Florida’s tax dollars should play no part in propping them up.

“The shameful record of the Castro and Assad governments is undeniable: they brutally oppress their people, actively support international terrorism, and seek to harm U.S. interests at every turn. This legislation is designed to protect Florida taxpayers from supporting dictatorships that commit such despicable acts and deny political freedom to their citizens.

“It is imperative that Florida and the United States continue to place economic pressure on the Cuban and Syrian governments. Only by bringing to bear every weapon in our arsenal can we affect true change. This legislation demonstrates Florida’s commitment to spreading political and economic freedom in Cuba and Syria, and builds on previous legislation that prohibits state and local government contracts with companies doing business in Sudan and Iran.”

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (7)

10:46AM MAY 2ND 2012
Another mostly empty victory for Unconstitutional Scott, who also said (not reported here - in Newsmax, among others) that the bill "will not go into effect unless and until Congress passes, and President Obama signs, a law permitting states to independently impose such sanctions against Cuba and Syria."

In other words, the state will not enforce this ban unless Congress approves, because it's clearly unconstitutional. Running on empty, and once again violating his oath of office - this time even acknowledging it, but saying he's upholding the U.S. Constitution, while he's actually violating it. That again, is more politics of the "Big Lie".
Robert Lloyd
9:09AM MAY 2ND 2012
>>Both nations are on the U.S. State Department list of “state sponsors of terrorism.”<<

Then why are we trading with Israel, the ultimate terrorist (and nuclear terrorist) state? Is this news website also scared to report the news fairly... where is the American free spirit?
10:49AM MAY 2ND 2012
Yes, you do have an issue with non-Christians, don't you?
Robert Lloyd
8:00PM MAY 2ND 2012
>>Yes, you do have an issue with non-Christians, don't you?<<

They are called antichrists, not non-Christians. Remember Jesus stated you are either for Him or against Him.
10:52AM MAY 3RD 2012
Guess you don't like many of our Founding Fathers, who weren't Christians but deists.

Must really grate on you, that separation of church and state stuff that they imposed on this country, right?

Then you'll just have to "love it or leave it", right, because this country doesn't hold with your radical beliefs, nor do most Christians.
Andrew Nappi
8:21AM MAY 2ND 2012
This is one of those sad and funny at the same time items. Rick Scott and the Legislature all of a sudden are concerned about oppression in Cuba and Syria? Is the oppression in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia any less? Of course not. This is a vote pandering scheme.
But foreign countries aside, under NDAA, the US has pretty much the same military arrest and indefinite detention policy as Cuba and Syria. Where is the outrage by our Governor and Legislature on behalf of their own constituents? Friggin' NOWHERE, that's where.
If there is a dramatic sheeple herd management tool they can work to their advantage, they will shamelessly exploit it. But in matters of our own LIBERTY, they remain prostrate before the federal leviathan.
This bill is self serving, disingenuous and befitting of the cowards that occupy the Mansion, the House and the Senate. Self serving, hypocritic cowards. The very principles and liberties for which we seceded from Britain are now being assaulted again, this time by a king and his court only 1200 miles away, and these cowards do nothing. Shame on them. Absolute disgust and shame on them all.
7:57AM MAY 2ND 2012
If you want to get the real story and why South Florida is now so upset at Governor Scott you will need to go to other news sources because you are not going to get the truth here.

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