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January 29, 2016  RSS feed
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State legislature moves forward on anti-BDS measures

Both houses of the Florida legislature are moving forward with bills and resolutions directly aimed against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel.

The Florida Senate unanimously approved a bill (SB 86) on Jan. 21 that would turn the tables on companies that boycott Israel, prohibiting the state pension fund from investing in those companies as well as restricting government contracts.

An identical bill (HB 527) is making its way through House committees, so far with unanimous committee votes.

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, the bill went before the Appropriations Committee and passed with no opposing votes, said Bernie Friedman, a lobbyist for the Florida Association of Jewish Federations.

He noted that CAIR (Council on Islamic-American Relations) appeared before the committee to argue against it. Friedman said the University of South Florida student government resolution calling for divestment also came up during the discussions before the committee.

Friedman said he expects it may take two to three weeks before the House bill clears all committees and is voted on by the full body. He is optimistic it will pass and be signed into law by the governor.

The bill would require the state Board of Administration to compile a list of companies that boycott Israel. Then the Board of Administration, which runs Florida’s pension fund, would not be able to invest in those companies.

The bill would also prevent state and local governments from entering into contracts worth $1 million or more with those companies.

“This bill says that if you discriminate against Israel, the state of Florida does not want to invest in your company or enter into contracts with your company,” said incoming State Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, in a statement to The News Service of Florida.

In addition to the bill, there are identical Anti-BDS resolutions moving through both houses of the legislature, Friedman said. He said they are likely to be approved in two to three weeks as well.

The resolutions condemn “the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement and calls upon Florida governmental institutions to denounce hatred,” a state House staff analysis of the resolution states. The analysis also states that although the BDS movement “has been condemned by many as anti-Semitic, it continues to have a presence in the United States, particularly on college campuses.”

The resolutions are not legally binding.

Friedman said the bill and the resolutions spring from different supporters and that while the bill deals with commerce, the resolutions express the state legislators’ support for Israel in a way that could be more easily adopted by lawmakers in other states.

Friedman said the CAIR group indicated that if the bill passes, it might seek a court injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.

However, Friedman said he believes the law would stand up in court. It has been crafted with similar language used in a law approved a few years ago to create a list of companies doing business with Iran, with similar penalties against those companies. That law has not been overturned.

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