Legislature to weigh ban on business with Iran

Legislature to weigh ban on business with Iran

Committee okays bill to reinforce pressure on nuclear program

A State Senate Committee gave unanimous passage to a bill prohibiting most businesses with state and local government contracts from trading with Iran.

Monday’s vote on the measure followed testimony by New Jersey Jewish leaders and legislators about the danger of Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.

The measure now heads to the floor of the Senate and to committee hearings in the Assembly with broad bipartisan support in both chambers.

The proposed legislation is aimed at supporting Obama administration policies “to deny Iran the ability to support acts of terrorism by nuclear weapons and the means to deliver that,” said Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Dist. 2), as he opened the hearing of the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

The proposal requires “units of the state and local government including boards of education and colleges to certify they do not do business with Iran’s energy, construction, or financial sectors, or provide technology, goods, or services that could be used to commit human rights violations against the people of Iran.”

“Placing economic pressure on Iran from this state and from a variety of other states is the responsibility of both state and local governments and individuals,” David Lentz, chair of the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central NJ, told the five-member committee.

State Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. (R-Dist. 21) testified as a prime sponsor of the bill. “New Jersey has a limited number of options to impact international policy,” Kean told NJ Jewish News after the vote. “Economics and finance are one of those areas, and it is very important we use every tool in our ability, especially in development of nuclear weapons.”

Lentz agreed.

“Many small companies do not do business with the federal government, only the state,” he said. “This would capture them.”

Much of the legislation is focused on NJ companies that insure Iranian oil shipments. “Insurance companies are concerned because they don’t want one of their major clients to suffer worldwide,” Lentz explained.

New York, Florida, Indiana, and California are already on board with similar sanctions efforts, and a similar bill is pending in Maryland, and in Connecticut, where many insurance firms have home offices.

“We hope this will become a domino effect around the country,” said CRC director Melanie Roth Gorelick.

Jacob Toporek, executive director of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, said he hoped the Senate will “pass this legislation as quickly as possible and move it to the Assembly,” where key sponsors John McKeon (D-Dist. 27) and Jon Bramnick (R-Dist. 21) lead its bipartisan support.

According to Toporek, Gov. Chris Christie was “supportive of the legislation and would like to see it pass by the end of June.”

But, Lentz told NJJN, he was “not very optimistic” that such efforts would deter Iran.

“I think the only possible means is that this in combination with the federal government and what European nations might do will be the best effort we can make,” he said. “But everybody is concerned that Iran doesn’t get the messages or doesn’t like the message.”

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