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Ohio House of Representatives approves anti-BDS bill

Measure sails through with 81-13 vote, celebrated by sponsor as bolstering state’s economy

Ohio House of Representatives Chamber. (Wikipedia/Joshua Rothaas/CC BY 2.0)
Ohio House of Representatives Chamber. (Wikipedia/Joshua Rothaas/CC BY 2.0)

The Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The bill, HB 476, passed Wednesday by a vote of 81-13. Five members did not vote.

The legislation would prohibit the state from contracting with companies that engage in boycotts of Israel, including companies located outside of the state. It also would require companies to explicitly state in contracts that they are not boycotting or divesting from Israel, according to the Cleveland Jewish News.

States that have passed such anti-BDS legislation include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and South Carolina.

“Our state’s relationship with Israel generates more than $200 million of economic benefit for Ohio each year,” Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, the primary sponsor of the bill, said in a statement quoted by the Jewish News.

“This legislation provides more opportunities for Ohio to continue its strong alliance with Israel, as well as bolster our economy here at home,” Schuring said.

The ACLU of Ohio in a statement called the legislation “an unwarranted attack on First Amendment rights as it severely restricts the right to speak out or take action based on political beliefs.”

“On its face, HB 476 is simple, but the ramifications are far-reaching, troublesome, and potentially unconstitutional,” said Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist at the ACLU of Ohio.

“This legislation places zero limits on what types of policies, laws or actions of the Israeli government are subject to this boycott ban. This could have broad implications for those who wish to divest for economic reasons such as new tariffs or boycott based on their political beliefs.”

The bill must still be approved by the state’s senate.

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