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Anti-Semitism: State Anti-BDS Legislation

(June 2017)

State

Date

Summary

Tennessee

April 21, 2015

The Tennessee General Assembly formally condemned the BDS movement in a 123-1 vote with the passing of SJR-170, becoming the first state in the country to do so. Although the legislation does not order Tennessee public institutions to divest from entities involved in the BDS movement, it refers to BDS as, “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state.” The legislation also stated that BDS is, “deeply damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy and human rights for all the peoples in the Middle East.”

South Carolina

June 4, 2015

South Carolina's state legislature passed legislation banning the state from entering into contracts with companies that participate in certain kinds of boycotts. Unlike the Illinois measure, South Carolina's H-3583 bill is in no way limited to companies that boycott Israeli firms. Rather, the legislation refers to companies that boycott “a person or an entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom South Carolina can enjoy open trade.” This legislation was signed by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley on June 4, 2015.

Illinois

July 23, 2015

The Illinois state legislature unanimously passed landmark anti-BDS legislation on May 18, 2015, and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner became the first state leader to sign anti-BDS legislation into law on July 23, 2015. The bill, SB-1761, targets taxpayer funded public pension funds that invest in companies which have adopted a BDS stance towards Israel. Per the legislation, companies that boycott Israel in Illinois were added to restricted company lists which undergo periodic review and are sent around to managers at all taxpayer funded public pension funds. The passage of this bill was hailed as the first state-based, concrete action taken against the BDS movement in the United States. The legislation was approved by the Governor on July 23, 2015.

California

December 30, 2015

The California-Israel Commerce Protection Act was passed on December 30, 2015, requiring the state of California and all public entities to divest from all companies that participate in boycotts against Israel. The act specifies that the state of California will not be doing business with companies that engage in practices, “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the State of Israel or companies based in the State of Israel or in territories controlled by the State of Israel.”

Alabama

February 16, 2016

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed SJR-6 into law on February 16, 2016, after it had been unanimously passed by the state legislature the previous week. The legislation states that the activities of the BDS movement in Alabama are, “harmful to the State's relationships with Alabama's Jewish citizens,” and expresses unconditional support for Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. The legislation goes on to, “unequivocally denounce and reject the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement and any furtherance of this movement in this state.”

Governor Bentley signed the anti-discrimination bill SB81 on May 10, 2016, which prevents Alabama government entities from contracting with companies engaged in Israel boycotts.

Colorado

February 26, 2016

The Colorado House of Representatives passed HB-16-284 on February 26, 2015. The legislation orders the state Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) to identify all companies that participate in the BDS movement and add their names to a list of restricted companies. The bill then requires PERA to send notice to the company alerting them of their status, and if the company does not stop supporting BDS activities within 180 days of notification the legislation requires PERA to divest from that company. This list of restricted companies is to be reviewed on an annual basis. The legislation was signed into law by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on March 18, 2016.

Indiana

March 1, 2016

In a 47-3 vote, the Indiana State Senate approved anti-BDS legislation on March 1, 2016. The House had approved the legislation in January. The bill, HB-1378, requires mandatory state divestment from any company that participates in, “the promotion of activities to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.” The language in the bill targets settlements as well, including “territories controlled by the Jewish State of Israel,” in the anti-BDs measure. As of December 2016 the legislation had still not been approved by Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

Florida

March 10, 2016

Florida became the fifth state in the country to introduce a resolution confronting and condemning the BDS movement, on December 21, 2015.

Florida's State Legislature passed SB-86 on February 24, 2016, with bipartisan support, sending a message that they benefit from their relations with Israel and do not support the BDS movement, companies associated with it, or it's agenda. In early March the Florida Senate passed an adjusted version of the bill calling for the repeal of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's “West Bank country of origin marking requirements,” which prevent West Bank products being labelled as “Made in Israel.”

On March 10, 2016, the Florida House of Representatives passed HB-527, directing the State Board of Administration create a list of companies that engage in boycotts of Israel, and instructing all government entities to divest from companies listed. On the same date, Florida governor Rick Scott signed SB-86.

Virginia

March 10, 2016

Both Virginia Houses of Delegates passed identical resolutions condemning the actions of the BDS movement in early March 2016. The legislation voices support for a negotiated 2-state solution, and states that Virginia “oppose[s] all attempts to economically and politically isolate Israel within the international arena, including promotion of economic, cultural, and academic boycotts.” Virginia lawmakers referred to the BDS movement as “inherently antithetical and deeply damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy, and human rights for all peoples in the Middle East.” Virginia's Jewish community issued a statement thanking the legislators for passing the resolution.

Arizona

March 18, 2016

On March 14, 2016, Arizona's House of Representatives passed legislation prohibiting state investment in companies that participate in the BDS movement, and requiring all entities contracting with the state to certify that they are not involved in boycotts of Israel. The legislation, HB-2617, passed the House with a 42-16-2 vote, after having passed the Senate the previous week. The legislation was signed into law by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on March 18, 2016.

Georgia

April 26, 2016

Georgia's SB-327 was approved by the State Senate on February 26, 2016, in a 45-6 vote. The bill prohibits the state, “including all of its subdivisions and instrumentalities,” from entering into contracts or agreements with companies involved with the BDS movement. This legislation passed the State House of Representatives on March 24, 2016, and was sent to the Governor to sign. Governor Nathan Deal signed the legislation on April 26, 2016.

Iowa

May 10, 2016

On February 24, 2016, the Iowa House of Representatives voted to block the state from investing in or contracting with companies that support the BDS movement. The legislation, SB-3087, was approved with a 70-24 vote, and 6 abstentions.

The Iowa State Senate approved SF-2281 in a 38-9 vote on April 27, 2016. The bill makes it illegal for a public entity in the state of Iowa to invest or enter into a contract worth over $1,000 with a company that boycotts Israel. The State Senate also approved a resolution with a voice-vote expressing support for Israel as well as a 2-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iowa HF-2331 was signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad on May 10, 2016, after being approved in April 2016 by the State Senate and February 2016 by the State House of Representatives.

New York

June 5, 2016

An anti-BDS resolution was passed with a near-unanimous vote in the New York State Assembly on June 22, 2015. The resolution denounced the BDS movement, stating, “this legislative body is concerned that the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and its agenda are damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy, and human rights for all peoples in the Middle East.” The legislation reiterated the close ties that New York shares with the Jewish state as well.

The New York State Senate approved a bill that prohibits the state and state entities from doing business with companies that support the BDS movement on January 20, 2016. The bill, S-6378A, is currently on the docket for the State Assembly to vote on. This legislation would prohibit state contracting with or investments in companies or individuals that engage in boycott, divestment, or sanctioning activities against Israel.

WESPAC Foundation, a group that financially supports the BDS movement by supporting Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), is based in White Plains, New York. SJP, the main iteration of the BDS movement on U.S. college campuses, raises money through donations to WESPAC and is not required by law to disclose their funding to the IRS because they are not registered as a charitable organization. The Palestine Freedom Project also receives funding through WESPAC, as does the Cultures of Resistance Network Foundation.

On June 5, 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring state agencies to divest from organizations and companies that participate in Israel boycotts. Cuomo described BDS as an “economic attack” on Israel during a speech at Manhattan's Harvard Club, and stated that “If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.” The Governor chose to issue an executive order instead of bringing the issue to the state legislature because passing legislation can be “a tedious affair,” and he wanted to take “immediate action,” against the BDS movement. Under the order, the Commissioner of the Office of General Services of New York was commanded to put together a list of businesses and groups involved in the BDS movement, based on “credible information available to the public.” The executive order was signed just before the Governor marched in New York City's 2016 Celebrate Israel Parade.

New Jersey

August 16, 2016

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed S-1923 into law on August 16, 2016, requiring the state's public worker pension funds to divest from companies that engage in Israel boycotts. The measure enjoyed wide bipartisan support in the State Senate and Assembly in May and June, where it passed with votes of 39-0, and 70-3, respectively.

Pennsylvania

November 4, 2016

Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania signed HB2107 into law on November 4, 2016. The bill, sponsored by Representative Matthew Baker, prohibits the government of the state of Pennsylvania from contracting with any entity that engages in BDS activities.

Ohio

December 19, 2016

Ohio HB-476 was introduced to the state legislature on February 24, 2016. The legislation, if approved, would ban “state agents” from entering into or renewing contracts with companies, unless it is contractually declared that the company is not boycotting or disinvesting from Israel. The bill was signed into law by Ohio Governor John Kasich on December 19, 2016.

Michigan

January 10, 2017

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed his state's anti-BDS legislation on January 10, 2017, making Michigan the first state to stand against the BDS movement that year. The bills, HB 5821 and 5822, were passed by the state House and Senate during the previous month. Michigan state agencies, according to the legislation, “may not enter into a contract with a person to acquire or dispose of supplies, services, or information technology unless the contract includes a representation that the person is not currently engaged in, and an agreement that the person will not engage in, the boycott of a person based in or doing business with a strategic partner.”

Texas May 2, 2017 Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB89, an act relating to state contracts with and investments in companies that boycott Israel, on May 2, 2017.  The bill prohibits the State of Texas from contracting or entering into business with companies or entities involved in the BDS movement against Israel.  The law ensures that public funds will not go to companies that participate in BDS. 
Nevada June 2, 2017 After it unanimously passed the Nevada State Legislature a week earlier and the State Senate the month before, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed Nevada's very own anti-BDS legislation on June 2, 2017.  With the signing of the bill, Nevada became the 20th state to pass laws prohibiting state institutions and government bodies from doing business with those who unfairly boycott Israel.  Governor Sandoval had travelled to Israel with a delegation of Nevada businessmen in 2013, to encourage investment and business cooperation with his state.  
Kansas June 16, 2017 Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed HB 2409 into law on June 16, 2017, prohibiting state agencies from contracting with entities that engage in Israel boycotts.  The legislation passed both the Kansas Senate and House during the previous week, in respective votes of 39-3 and 99-13.  
North Carolina June 28, 2017 The North Carolina State House of Representatives passed HB261 on June 28, 2017, which prevents entities that receive state funding from doing business with entities that participate in the BDS movement.  

Sources: Eugene Kontorovich, “Illinois passes historic anti-BDS bill, as Congress mulls similar moves,” The Washington Post, (May 18, 2015);
Eugene Kontorovich, “South Carolina passes historic anti-boycott law,” The Washington Post (June 5, 2015);
Sean Savage, “Tennessee General Assembly becomes first state legislature to condemn BDS,” JNS (April 21, 2015);
“Alabama Legislature Unanimously Condemns Anti-Israel BDS Movement,” Southern Jewish Life Magazine (February 18, 2016);
Jacob Kornbluh, “NY Senate Passes Anti-BDS Legislation,” Jewish Insider (January 20, 2016);
“Florida & California Pass Anti-BDS Legislation,” JPUpdates, (January 5, 2016);
Brianne Pfannensteil, “Iowa House votes to keep state funds from companies boycotting Israel,” Des Moines Register, (February 25, 2016);
Kristen Mott, “Ohio introduces anti-BDS bill,” Cleveland Jewish Times (March 2, 2016);
JTA. “Indiana Passes BDS Resolution,” Forward Magazine (March 2, 2016);
Danielle Ziri, “Anti-BDS bill passed in Arizona,” Jerusalem Post (March 14, 2016);
Hillel Fendel, “Virginia becomes seventh US state to pass anti-BDS resolution,” Israel National News (March 22, 2016);
William Petroski, “Branstad signs Israel anti-boycott bill,” Des Moines Register, (May 10, 2016);
Matt Arco, “Christie signs bill banning N.J. pension investments with businesses boycotting Israel,” NJ.com, (August 16, 2016);
“Governor Wolf Signs Bill Prohibiting State from Contracting with Businesses that Boycott Israel,” Pennsylvania Governor's Office, (November 4, 2016);
“Michigan becomes latest state to pass anti-BDS legislation,” JNS, (January 10, 2017);
David Yates, Abbott signs anti-BDS legislation into law, action signals Texas’ support for Israel, SE Texas Record, (May 2, 2017);
Benjamin Weinthal, Nevada Governor signs anti-BDS law, Jerusalem Post, (June 3, 2017); 
Kansas Governor Signs Bill Outlawing Discriminatory Boycotts of Israel, The Tower (June 16, 2017);
Benjamin Weinthal, North Carolina Lawmakers Approve Anti-BDS Bill, Jerusalem Post, (June 29, 2017)