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Justice Department says Florida law interferes with regulations for Cuba

MIAMI — A Florida law that would make it more expensive for travel agents to book trips to Cuba interferes with existing federal regulations on travel, says a U.S. Justice Department report issued Friday.

Justice said the Sellers of Travel Act also interferes "with the federal government's ability to speak for the United States with one voice in foreign affairs."

The law, passed 2008, requires agencies that sell trips to Cuba to post a $250,000 bond with the state and pay up to $2,500 in annual registration fees.

More than a dozen travel agencies filed a federal lawsuit against the state in June to stop the law from taking effect. They argue that the law discriminates against them because it would drive up their costs.

In July, a federal judge said the law was likely unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction preventing Florida from enforcing it. The injunction remains in effect until a trial on the law's constitutionality, which is as yet unscheduled.

"I think this will definitely help our position," said Steven M. Weinger, an attorney representing the travel agencies. "The Department of Justice has basically taken the same position that we've taken, that the state of Florida does not have the right to punish people who legally try to sell trips to Cuba."

State Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican, had touted his measure as a "homeland security" issue.

The Justice Department's opinion "demonstrates that the Obama administration is obviously only interested in kissing up to the Castro regime rather than protecting Florida consumers from the abuses of these travel agencies," Rivera said.

Justice Department says Florida law interferes with regulations for Cuba 03/22/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:14pm]
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