Rhode Island’s General Assembly approved legislation that would prohibit the state from contracting with companies that engage in boycotts of allies of the United States, including Israel.
The Anti-Discrimination in State Contracts Act was passed June 16 by the Rhode Island House in a 65-4 vote and “in concurrence” two days later by the state Senate.
As The Jewish Voice goes to press, the bill is awaiting Gov. Gina Raimondo’s expected signature, making the legislation law.
Several states have passed anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) legislation, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and South Carolina. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed an executive order opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. In total, 21 states have taken up anti-BDS legislation.
The Massachusetts legislature is considering anti-BDS legislation similar to that passed in Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island legislation states: “A public entity shall not enter into a contract with a business to acquire or dispose of supplies, services, information technology, or construction unless the contract includes a representation that the business is not currently engaged in, and an agreement that the business will not during the duration of in the boycott of any person, firm or entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom the state can enjoy open trade, and/or the boycott of any public agencies, entities or instrumentalities of the jurisdiction with whom the state can enjoy open trade.”
What this means is that as long as a country is in good standing with the World Trade Organization, a business cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, gender, or nationality of the targeted person, or firm by boycott, divestment or sanction, said Marty Cooper, community relations director of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.
Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45) introduced the bill in February. A hearing took place in May.
Representatives from the Jewish community in Rhode Island, including the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Alliance and StandWithUs Rhode Island, testified at the hearing.
“Today’s interdependent global economy requires that trade policy be developed both at the national and state level,” Ackerman said. “One of our greatest trading allies is the State of Israel, the only democratic, non-discriminatory country in the Middle East.”