Florida judge blocks law targeting firms with Cuba, Syria ties

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 26, 2012 11:18 AM
Florida judge blocks law targeting firms with Cuba, Syria ties

MIAMI (Reuters) - A federal judge in Miami has temporarily blocked Florida from enforcing a state law set to go into effect on July 1 barring companies that do business in Cuba or Syria from bidding for state and local government contracts.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore granted a preliminary injunction on Monday evening in a lawsuit filed by the South Florida-based subsidiary of Brazilian construction and engineering conglomerate Odebrecht challenging the law.

The Brazilian firm, which has been awarded nearly $4 billion in contracts from Florida state agencies and local governments since 1990, sued the state earlier this month claiming the law violates the U.S. Constitution.

The company argues the federal government, not states, have the authority to enact laws involving foreign policy.

The Florida law would prohibit state and local governments from awarding contracts of $1 million or more to any company that conducts business in Cuba or Syria. Both countries are designated by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism.

Odebrecht USA was expected to be the biggest company impacted by the new law. A separate subsidiary of Odebrecht is involved in a major upgrade to Cuba's Port of Mariel near the capital Havana, and the company has faced criticism from Cuban exiles in Miami.

The law was signed by Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott in May. It drew strong backing in the state's Republican-controlled legislature, particularly from Cuban-American politicians who argued Florida tax dollars should not be used to support dictatorships.

Scott later came under heavy criticism after acknowledging the law would be difficult to implement without federal approval, but he vowed to defend it against legal challenges.

Odebrecht USA provides construction and engineering services, focusing largely on public infrastructure and transportation services.

Among the contracts the company has won include the American Airlines Arena and a performing arts center in Miami. It is bidding on a proposed $700 million hotel and office complex associated with the Miami airport.

The case is Odebrecht Construction vs Ananth Prasad, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, No. 12-cv-22072-KMM. (Reporting by Kevin Gray; Editing by Will Dunham)