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Mitch Perry Report for 7.29.15 — Kathy Castor goes all the way on Cuba

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Although it’s dubious whether legislation expanding travel opportunities for Americans to go to Cuba will get through the Congress this year, Kathy Castor is pushing even further.

The Tampa Bay area Democrat announced on Tuesday that along with Minnesota Republican Tom Emmer, she was introducing the Cuba Trade Act of 2015 (HR3238). The bill  would end the 54-year-old Cuban embargo and allow for businesses in the private sector to trade freely with Cuba, while prohibiting taxpayer funds to be used on promotion or development of these new markets.

“The United States and Cuba have taken historic actions this year to set our countries on a more productive path forward for citizens of both nations and turn the page on the outdated 50-year policy of isolation,” said the congresswoman in a statement. “Today, I urge my colleagues to join me and Rep. Emmer in taking the next step to lift the embargo. This important step forward will advance human rights and lift the fortunes of families and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Florida Straits. Lifting the embargo and reestablishing historic trade ties with Cuba will be a boost to our port and local small businesses in Florida.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this policy of engagement that will not only provide an economic boost here at home, but will also help the Cuban economy and its people flourish.”

The legislation will no doubt be considered Dead on Arrival, but that’s not the point here. It’s to begin the conversation in Congress toward lifting the sanctions, which even Castor herself has admitted will take years to come. Most observers think it certainly won’t happen until Raul Castro is no longer in power. In fact, the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 requires a transitional government culminating in a democratically elected one before the embargo is actually lifted.

What a democratically elected government looks like is not defined, but the law says that this includes releasing all political prisoners, dissolving the Cuban Department of State Security, and taking “appropriate” steps to return assets to U.S. citizens that  the Cuban government confiscated after January 1,1959.

The conversation in Washington has already changed dramatically, and while some don’t like that change in direction, it’s moving forward, and Castor has led the way.

In other news..

The Florida Legislature shrugged its shoulders yesterday and said, essentially, screw it, the Supreme Court is going to rule against us later this year on redistricting Senate districts — let’s just go ahead and do it ourselves and get it done. Get ready for Special Session III starting in October.

And former Florida U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez tells us why it would be awful for the GOP if Donald Trump decided to go third-party in next year’s presidential contest.

Florida progressives are psyched that they’ve got an array of choices in Pam Keith & Alan Grayson for U.S. Senate.

GOP Senate candidate Ron DeSantis wants the current IRS commissioner fired, or he’ll lead the fight to impeach him.

A Mason-Dixon poll released yesterday shows the folks who have been working all year to get a constitutional amendment passed on solar power are losing; while a group formed just two weeks ago is kicking butt. Huh?

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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