Florida Governor Rick Scott said today he will enforce a new law blocking governments in the state from hiring companies that do business in Cuba or Syria, contradicting a letter he wrote earlier in the week saying the measure wouldn’t take effect.
“I’m going to enforce the law in Florida,” Scott said during an interview in his state Capitol office in Tallahassee. “But the odds are it will end up in litigation.”
Scott had said in a May 1 letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner the law “will not go into effect” without a federal law that lets states impose sanctions against Cuba and Syria. The letter said the measure may conflict with federal law.
Asked during the interview about why his position shifted, Scott said the U.S. government should treat Syria and Cuba the way it treats Iran. The U.S. has imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
The law, which Scott signed May 1 and takes effect July 1, applies to contracts of $1 million or more. Scott said in remarks prepared for the bill signing that the ban is aimed at “undeniably repressive” governments in the two countries.
The measure may punish one of Brazil’s largest builders, Odebrecht SA, which is bidding on a proposed $700 million hotel and retail complex at Miami International Airport and is renovating Cuba’s Port of Mariel. An employee in the Odebrecht’s press office, who declined to be identified, citing company rules, had no immediate comment.
Scott’s initial statement that he wouldn’t enforce the law sparked complaints from U.S. Representative David Rivera and several fellow Republicans in the state Legislature, who called for the measure to be put in place.
The law was pushed by elected officials from the politically active Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, which Scott lost in his primary and general election races.
“He’s just starting to establish a relationship with the Cuban-American community and he’s already caused that effort great harm,” said Ana Navarro, a Miami-based political consultant who was co-chairwoman of 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s Hispanic advisory council. “Most Cubans felt used and fooled and now he’s backtracking.”
Brian Burgess, Scott’s communications director, said the governor didn’t intentionally mislead Cuban-Americans.
“We all have to do a better job communicating,” Burgess said after the interview.
Scott, 59, a former chief executive officer of HCA Holdings Inc., won office in 2010 on a platform that he would decrease Florida’s unemployment rate by making it easier to do business in the state.
William Reinsch, president of the Washington-based National Foreign Trade Council, a business group in Washington, said in a May 1 interview that the state can’t enforce the law, citing a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The court in 2000 ruled in favor of the NFTC when the group sued over a Massachusetts law blocking government deals with companies doing business in Burma.
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