A proposed state law that would prohibit the government from hiring companies with business ties to Cuba was struck down on Monday by a Miami federal judge. The law had passed through Florida legislation with an almost unanimous vote, and had already been approved by Gov. Rick Scott. Prior to the temporary injunction put forth by U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore, the law had been viewed as controversial.
“It’s not as if there isn’t some precedent there and there hasn’t been a run at this effort in the past,” Moore said after ruling in favor of Odebrecht Construction, a subsidiary of a Brazilian engineering and construction company based in Coral Gables, Florida.
Odebrecht USA brought a suit against the Florida Department of Transportation over the new law earlier this month. Under the law, the government agency would no longer be allowed to offer Odebrecht contracts due to the company’s business in Cuba. A separate subsidiary of Odebrecht is expanding to the Port of Mariel in Cuba.
In the lawsuit, Odebrecht claims that not only would the company be unable to bid for any of the $3.4 billion worth of contracts from the Department of Transportation this year, but that the law had damaged the company’s reputation, causing potential business partners and employees to withdraw from the company.
Moore’s injunction is directed specifically at the FDOT, but with the decision in place, the likelihood of any of the state’s agencies enforcing the law is low. Moore agreed with Odebrecht’s belief that the state law was in conflict with the federal government’s control of foreign policy. Though the injunction is temporary, it likely will lead to a permanent ruling that the law is unenforceable.
“We are extremely proud of our 21-year track record of performance and community involvement in Miami-Dade County and throughout Florida,” Ordebrecht USA said in a statement following the decision. “We will continue to defend our right to serve the state of Florida and its local governments, and remain fully committed to complying with all local, state and federal law, and dedicated to working with our partners to provide outstanding service to each of our clients.”
Ordebrecht USA has taken part in some of the Miami area’s largest construction projects, including the American Airlines Arena, and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.