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Lawsuit over traveling to Cuba delayed

FLORIDA LAW
Lawsuit over traveling to Cuba delayed
Travel agents specializing in trips to Cuba will have to wait until at
least August for the outcome of a lawsuit against the state.
Posted on Tue, Jul. 08, 2008
BY LAURA FIGUEROA
lfigueroa@MiamiHerald.com

After a few weeks of uncertainty, business dealings will remain the same
for Florida travel agencies specializing in trips to Cuba — at least
until August.

A lawsuit between 16 Miami-Dade-based travel vendors and the state of
Florida was initially scheduled for a federal court hearing on Friday,
but it was postponed until Aug. 29 at the state's request.

At stake is whether a law aimed at increasing state regulation of
Florida travel agencies selling trips to Cuba unfairly targets a
specific group of companies.

NO TIME TO PREPARE

''The long holiday weekend would not have given us sufficient time to
prepare and provide a full and meaningful response,'' said Terence
McElroy, spokesman for the Florida Department of and
Consumer Services.

Sponsored by state Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican, the law
requires travel agencies to post a $250,000 bond with the state and pay
up to $2,500 in annual registration fees if they arrange trips to
countries on the U.S. State Department's list of nations with ties to
terrorist groups.

HEFTY REQUIREMENTS

Approved by the state Legislature in May, the monetary requirements are
10 times stricter than for those travel agencies that don't sell trips
to Cuba, or any of the other four countries on the federal terror list.

The measure was slated to go into effect on July 1, but was temporarily
lifted when the band of agencies filed a lawsuit in federal court on
June 30.

Last Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Alan S. Gold ruled to stop
enforcement of the law until both sides could present their arguments.

Since then, several agencies say they have been faced with the challenge
of making customers aware that direct flights to Cuba from Miami are
still operational and being sold.

''We have gotten calls from customers who are unsure of whether they are
still allowed to move forward with purchasing tickets, but we let them
know that everything is carrying on as normal,'' said Armando Garcia,
of Marazul Charters Travel, one of the companies behind the
lawsuit.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami_dade/story/596981.html

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