The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has advised members that Florida Governor Charlie Crist has signed into law SB 1310 which, effective July 1, significantly increases registration fees, security bonds and potential fines for firms selling trips to any nation that has been designated by the State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Under the new law, if an agent located anywhere in the country sells travel to a Florida resident with any one of the five designated countries as a destination, he/she must certify in advance of the sale and pay an increased registration fee ranging from $1,000 and $2,500.
Presently, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea are the only countries designated by the State Department as terrorism sponsors. Today, ASTA noted, President Bush announced his intention to remove North Korea from the terrorism sponsor list within 45 days.
The agent must also post a security bond ranging from $100,000 and $250,000. Agents who fail to comply could face a $10,000 fine and a third-degree felony conviction. A single transaction involving travel to Iran, Syria, Cuba, Sudan or North Korea can constitute a violation.
In the past, agencies have been generally exempt from Florida's registration requirements if they have been ARC accredited for the past three consecutive years. But under the new amendments to Florida's Seller of Travel law, agents lose that exemption if they sell travel to at least one of the countries on the State Department's list.
ASTA has strongly objected to SB 1310 as an unfair restraint on citizens' freedom to travel. ASTA also believes that it is in direct conflict with federal law. When the legislation becomes effective next week, it will restrict travel which the federal government deems as authorized and perfectly legal. ASTA had urged Governor Crist to veto SB 1310, pointing out that it violates a total of four provisions of the U.S. Constitution.