Florida law banning Cuba travel, research struck down
Saturday, August 30th 2008, 4:00 AM
The law officially targeted any terrorist state but mostly affected travel to the communist island, located just 90 miles from the tip of Florida.
In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Patricia Seitz upheld one aspect of the law: state money can't be used for the travel.
Yet nearly all trips relied on private grants and only used nominal state funding to administer the grants, which the judge ruled was allowed.
Seitz wrote in her opinion that by including the restriction on private funds, the state impinged on the U.S. president's authority to handle foreign affairs.
"The fact that the act restricts more than 'nonstate' funds, demonstrates that the 'design and intent' of the law is more than just a state spending decision, but also a political statement of condemnation of the designated countries," she wrote.
State Rep. David Rivera, a Cuban-American from Miami, sponsored the 2006 legislation.
He said he did not want state money to support terrorist nations — and the Cuban government in particular.
"I think the judge made a mistake," Rivera said Friday. "I hope we appeal or we can remedy through the budget process."
Rivera said the legislature could still insert a line in the budget restricting only state money from going to Cuba travel.
"I don't believe the state funds are nominal or incidental," he said. "If they are, then I don't think these professors need them."
Rivera has also championed a law toughening restrictions on Florida travel agencies booking travel to Cuba.
That law also faces legal challenges.