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ASTA Wins in Florida Sellers of Travel Law BattleOctober 2, 2008 By: George Dooley
ASTA is claiming victory in its efforts to block recent amendments to the Florida Sellers of Travel Law. A federal judge in Miami has ruled that the new restrictions are likely to be declared unconstitutional, and barred the state from enforcing them. The win is the latest in a series of victories for ASTA’s defense of travel agents on the state level.
"This law would have impeded Florida agents' ability to freely sell travel and could have placed an unprecedented financial and disciplinary burden on them as well," said Chris Russo, ASTA president and CEO. "Because of the combined efforts of ASTA and the 16 travel agencies involved, the right to travel has been defended and acknowledged."
U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold issued a preliminary injunction against the law, holding that it violates the Constitution on several grounds including the federal mandate in Foreign Affairs, the Supremacy Clause, the Foreign Commerce Clause and the Interstate Commerce Clause.
Gold noted: "It is with significant concern that I note that the Travel Act Amendments— which include extraordinary expensive registration and bonding requirements, exorbitant fines and a felony conviction for those who fail to comply with the law— constitute little more than an attempt to impose economic sanctions on travel to designated foreign governments, particularly the Republic of Cuba. But the right and power to impose such sanctions, and to establish foreign policy, remains, under our federal Constitution, solely within the exclusive domain of the Congress of the United States and the President, and not within the aegis of the State of Florida under the guise of consumer protection."
ASTA assisted in the litigation by filing an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in ABC Charters v. Bronson, a case brought against the state of Florida by 16 travel agencies specializing in travel to Cuba. The law, which went into effect on July 1 but remained blocked under a temporary restraining order, significantly increased registration fees, security bonds and potential fines for firms selling trips directly to any nation that has been designated by the State Department as state sponsor of terrorism, namely, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea.
Gold endorsed ASTA's view that the expansive reach of this law could ultimately affect travel to countries other than Cuba, rejecting the claim that this law was based on a desire to protect consumers and that the Florida law would punish and interfere with business. ASTA, like the plaintiffs, said they believed the new law violated multiple provisions of the Constitution, including freedom to travel, and the rights of the federal government to conduct foreign relations and regulate commerce free of state interference.