DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s governor says he supports a proposal to have the state’s public employee pension fund oppose a boycott seeking to punish Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
The bill won tentative approval in the state Senate on Tuesday. It has already passed in the House.
The bill directs Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association to divest from foreign companies participating in the boycott.
“What it does is tell people, Israel is our ally, and what we want is peace,” said Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa.
Boycott supporters say it seeks to advance Palestinian independence and end Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Backers of the movement claim responsibility for pressuring large companies such as carbonated drink maker Soda Stream to stop or change operations in Israel or the West Bank.
Critics, however, accuse the movement of anti-Semitism for singling out Israel while ignoring countries with poor human rights records.
The pension fund’s board of directors opposes the bill. Directors said they didn’t want politics to influence investment decisions.
The bill sparked a lively debate on the Senate floor. Some senators sided with the Public Employees Retirement Association board. “By passing this bill, PERA would be forced into extra work and cost,” said Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton.
Other Democrats called it a worthy statement of belief.
The Public Employees Retirement Association has $46 billion in assets, but the bill under consideration would affect a minimal amount of those holdings.
California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have passed or are considering bills or resolutions against the boycott movement.
The U.S. considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegitimate, but the White House says trade law language lumping Israel and the Palestinian territories together contradicts U.S. policy toward the settlements.