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Florida lawmaker proposes ban on funding research trips to Cuba

TALLAHASSEE — A Cuban-American legislator has placed a ban on the use of state money to pay for research trips to Cuba in the education budget that the House will vote on today.

Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, sponsored a similar ban in 2006. But most of that law was struck down last year.

"I may not be able to stop the Obama administration from coddling the Castro dictatorship at the national level, but I certainly can do everything possible to stop Florida's taxpayer money from subsidizing a terrorist regime like Cuba," said Rivera.

The provision states that community colleges and state universities cannot use state money or student tuition dollars to "implement, organize, coordinate or administer" or support the activities of traveling to countries designated by the State Department as sponsors of terror.

There are four countries on the U.S. terrorist list, but the legislation is aimed at Cuba.

Even before the 2006 law, most universities did not use state money to pay for trips to Cuba. Instead university researchers relied on private grants.

But the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of the Florida International University faculty senate, saying the way the law was worded it also prevented the use of private money for trips. In August a federal judge struck down part of the law as unconstitutional. The case is still under appeal.

Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the wording could prevent someone from even making a phone call from a university to book a trip. He predicted that the ACLU would file another suit if the Legislature passes the ban.

"It's David Rivera playing the Cuba card to keep this country in isolation," Simon said. "He needs to get off this crusade. Burying our head in the sand in Florida is not doing a single thing to hasten democracy in Cuba."

Florida lawmaker proposes ban on funding research trips to Cuba 04/06/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 6, 2009 11:01pm]

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