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Federal court strikes down Florida law targeting Cuba travel companies

[JURIST] The US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] on Tuesday struck down [order, PDF] as unconstitutional a Florida state law that requires travel companies offering service to Cuba to post substantially higher bonds than companies that do not offer Cuban travel. Last month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] entered a Statement of Interest [text, PDF] in the case, urging the court to overturn the 2008 Sellers of Travel Act [materials] because it impeded the federal government's ability to speak with one voice when managing relations with other nations. The DOJ argued that recent amendments to the act unlawfully impose burdens on federally protected travel that promotes Cuba's "peaceful transition to democracy." Fully adopting DOJ's position, the court declared the law unconstitutional, holding that, "[t]he State of Florida is not entitled to adopt a foreign policy under our Constitution or interfere with the prerogative of the United States to establish a carefully balanced approach to relations with foreign countries, including Cuba." The court also said that the law violates the Supremacy Clause, the federal government's foreign affairs power, the Foreign Commerce Clause, and the Interstate Commerce Clause. Florida State Rep. David Rivera (R) [official profile], a Cuban American and original sponsor of the law, deplored [Tampa Bay Business Journal report] the decision and said he will consider introducing new legislation on the issue.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama ordered the lifting of travel restrictions and restrictions on money transfers [press release; JURIST report] between Cuban-Americans and their families in Cuba. He also ordered that US telecommunications companies be allowed to work within Cuba to facilitate communication between families split between the two countries. Earlier this year, Congress approved legislation that relaxed rules put in place by the Bush administration in 2004 [JURIST report]. In February, a bill [H.R. 874 materials] was introduced [JURIST report] into the House of Representatives [official website] that would end the ban on travel by US residents to Cuba. A similar bill [S. 428 materials] is pending in the Senate [official website].

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