Following on the heels of a 2010 statute forcing Pennsylvania's pension funds to divest from companies doing business with Iran or Sudan, a Philadelphia lawmaker has introduced new legislation that would prohibit firms involved in Iran's energy sector from bidding for state contracts.
Senate Bill 1543 was introduced June 5 by Senator Mike Stack (D-District 5) and co-sponsored by eight Democrats and nine Republicans. It would prohibit a firm that provides goods, services or credit worth at least $20 million to Iran's energy sector from winning a contract of $1 million or more with the Pennsylvania Department of General Services.
State Rep. Dan Frankel, a Pittsburgh area lawmaker, is expected to unveil a similar bill in the House.
The Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition and the American Jewish Committee have worked closely with Stack on the legislation. PJC executive director Hank Butler said passage of the bill is near the top of its legislative agenda.
According to Stack, it's unclear how many companies could potentially be affected by the proposed bill or if any have ties to the growing natural gas and fracking industry in the state. After a similar law passed in California, he said more than 100 firms opted to bow out of Iran rather than sever ties to the state.
In the wake of the 2010 Pennsylvania law, 16 companies with ties to Iran or Sudan have severed or are in the process of severing those financial relationships, said Stack.
With nearly 30 states passing divestment legislation and four states so far having enacted procurement laws, state and local governments are having a cumulative effect on Iran and its drive to acquire nuclear weapons, he said.
"If companies are putting profit ahead of national security and fighting terror, we'll expose that," said Stack. "As our way of focusing on this issue has expanded, we'll continue to see other areas that we might need to take a tougher look at."
Speaking at a Harrisburg news conference about the bill, AJC area director Rabbi Mark Robbins called the introduction of the measure a historic step.
"There are clear signs that economic sanctions imposed locally and internationally are hurting Iran," he said. "We urge other states to introduce similar legislation to strengthen the economic message that these sanctions send to the Iranian regime."