The Florida House meets on Nov. 7, 2023, to debate measures targeting Iran in light of the Hamas attack on Israel. (Credit: Michael Moline)
The state House voted Tuesday to expand the ban on investing state and local pension funds in companies that do business with Iran because of its support of Hamas following that group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Next step is a vote on the floor of the state Senate, possibly as early as Wednesday, as Florida’s special legislative session continues this week.
Although he didn’t call the special session directly — the House and Senate leadership did that in consultation with the governor — Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has been leading the rhetorical campaign against Iran for its sponsorship of Hamas.
Existing legislation forbids the State Board of Administration — comprising Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — all Republicans overseeing the state’s $241 billion pension fund, to invest in companies doing business with the Iranian petroleum industry. Their names go on the “Iran Petroleum Sector List.”
The bill would expand the petroleum list into a broader “Scrutinized Companies with Activities in Iran Terrorism Sectors List” that would sanction companies that after Jan. 10, 2024, trace more than 10% of their revenues or assets in the Iranian energy and petrochemical but also financial, construction, manufacturing, textile, mining, metals, shipping, shipbuilding, or port sectors. It also targets companies with single or multiple investments of $20 million or more in those sectors of the Iranian economy.
“We will refuse again to allow our taxpayer dollars to be invested in companies that directly support terrorism,” said John Snyder, the Republican House sponsor, who represents parts of Martin and Palm Beach Counties.
During a committee hearing the day before, Synder offered no firm estimate of how many companies would be involved or the economic consequences to Florida of the expanded sanctions.
Anna Eskamani of Orange County, whose parents moved from Iran to Florida following the 1970 Islamic Revolution, spoke against the bill — fearing, she said, it would harm ordinary Iranians like her extended family still living there.
“Right now, we are seeing a rise of anti-Semitism as well seeing a rise of Islamophobia. And tensions are high understandably. So, I do appreciate many folks who are modeling love and modeling empathy and trying to focus on the bad actors around us in this world,” Eskamani said.
“And there’s no doubt in my mind that the Islamic Republic of Iran is an evil entity,” she continued.
But she added that the U.S. government and Florida state government already impose heavy sanctions on Iran. “And I worry that these types of extensions are more politically motivated than actual substance policy.”
There was precious little debate over the sanctions bill, HB 5 C, and Democrats Eskamani and Angie Nixon of Jacksonville cast the only “no” votes in the House on Tuesday.
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