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Colorado legislature vs. BDS

Janet ShermanAs of early this week, all that remained for Colorado’s anti-boycott legislation to become law is a stroke of Governor John Hickenlooper’’s pen.

Less than a month after it was first introduced into the General Assembly, the bill — which will force the state’s public employees’ retirement association (PERA) to divest funds from companies boycotting or divesting from Israel — has passed both the Colorado House and Senate.

After the Senate passed the measure March 8 by a vote of 25-9, the bill was returned to the House, which passed the bill in a concurrence vote on March 11, a final procedure before sending the bill to the governor’’s desk.

“”We’re waiting to know when the governor is going to sign it,”” Janet Sherman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, told the Intermountain Jewish News on Monday. “”It could be as soon as this week.””

The JCRC, along with JEWISHcolorado, not only supported and advocated for the legislation but helped draft its original language.

“”The JCRC has been involved with this bill all the way,”” Sherman said this week, “”and we’’re thrilled that it has passed.””

With the passage of the bill, Colorado will join at least five states — Illinois, Indiana, South Carolina, Florida and Virginia — which have passed anti-BDS (boycott-divest-sanction) legislation that goes beyond resolutions.

Those laws, and a handful of others being considered by other states, vary in their specific approaches to countering the growing BDS movement. Some of them, for example, contain language differentiating between boycotts of businesses in Israel proper and those located in disputed parts of the West Bank. There is no mention of settlements, occupied territories or the West Bank in the Colorado bill.

Colorado’s version will require PERA to identify firms participating in the anti-Israel boycott by Jan. 1, 2017, and then to notify such firms that they may become subject to PERA divestment if they fail to cease boycott activity within 180 days.

Such “restricted companies” would remain subject to PERA divestment so long as they remain on a state-maintained list of firms that choose to continue boycotting Israel.

In a statement issued last week, JCRC chair Ben Lusher said, ““If PERA were to invest in companies that have economic prohibitions against Israel, then we as citizens of Colorado would be indirectly supporting sanctions against our strongest ally in the Middle East, and the only one which shares our democratic values.

““We applaud the General Assembly for taking this important step to ensure our investments reflect our priorities and our values.””

Last week, the Associated Press reported that Gov. Hickenlooper had expressed support for the anti-boycott legislation. PERA’s board of directors, on the other hand, opposed the bill because “they didn’t want politics to influence investment decisions,” AP reported.

The Pension & Investment Online website, meanwhile, reported that of PERA’’s overall $47 billion in assets, any funds that would be affected by the new law would be “small.”

Although Sherman told the IJN this week she is unsure of the precise amount of current PERA investments in companies actively boycotting Israel, the bill has potent deterrent and symbolic value regardless of its immediate monetary impact, she said.

“”It sends a message,”” she said, “”and not just a message — it will make it law that PERA will not be able to invest in companies that boycott Israel. Hopefully, it will make companies think twice about boycotting an ally of the United States.””

Chris Leppek may be reached at IJNEWS@aol.com.

Copyright © 2016 by the Intermountain Jewish News


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Chris Leppek

IJN Assistant Editor | ijnews@aol.com


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