JTA — The New Jersey Legislature passed legislation that prohibits the state from investing pension and annuity funds in companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses.
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The bipartisan bill in response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement against Israel passed the state’s General Assembly on Monday by a vote of 69-3 with 2 abstentions. It unanimously passed the state Senate in May.
Gov. Chris Christie is expected to sign the bill into law.
The state’s $71 billion pension fund provides coverage for about 800,000 current and retired public employees. A state Treasury Department spokesman told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was not aware of any companies that the pension fund is invested in that would violate the legislation.
Israel and New Jersey annually trade more than $1.3 billion in goods, according to the legislation.
“It is important to the economic well-being of New Jersey that persons or entities conducting commercial trade and doing business in the State do not engage in boycotts of a legitimate and viable partner with whom New Jersey can enjoy open trade contracting,” according to the legislation. “Therefore, it is in the best interest of this State that a statutory prohibition be enacted to prohibit the investment of public employee retirement funds in companies boycotting Israel.”
The divestment from such funds must occur within two years of the passage of the legislation.
At least 12 states have passed anti-BDS legislation, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and South Carolina. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed an executive order banning state agencies from investing in companies that support BDS.
In total, 21 states have taken up anti-BDS legislation.