Pennsylvania legislators consider punishing businesses with ties to Iranian energy

Pennsylvania legislators consider punishing businesses with ties to Iranian energy

Quick maneuvering in Harrisburg Tuesday may have advanced the state’s own contribution to the international effort to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Senate State Government Majority Chairman Lloyd Smucker (R-District 13) announced that his committee would consider House Bill 201, commonly known as the Iran Free Procurement Act, at its May 6 meeting.

According to Hank Butler, executive director of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition — which lobbies on behalf of Jewish communities throughout the state — the legislation, which would prohibit any company investing more than $20 million in Iran’s energy sector from entering into a state procurement contract worth more than $1 million through the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, was passed by the House last year. But concerns raised by the Pennsylvania Insurance Federation stalled the bill in committee.

“We’ve been negotiating with the insurance federation, and we have an amendment that’s been agreed to,” said Butler, noting that the committee was due to take up six pieces of legislation in the space of just 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon. “They’re prepared to move the bill out of committee today. Then it goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee and then to the Senate floor.

“It’s the next step,” added Butler, who views the legislation as a crucial step in changing the behavior of some companies currently doing business in Pennsylvania. “The good news is that it’s moving. Hopefully.”

Rep. Dan Frankel, an Allegheny County Democrat representing the 23rd state legislative district, authored an earlier version of the bill, which through an amendment process became HB 201. Sen. Michael Stack, a Democrat from Philadelphia representing the fifth senatorial district, negotiated the bill’s current amendment with the insurance federation.

“The PJC had international experts review this amendment for concurrence,” said Butler. “They have okayed the language.”

Even as the United States negotiates with world powers in Geneva as part of the P5+1 talks to get Iran to dismantle its uranium refining infrastructure — a limiting factor in the development of a nuclear weapon is the quantity of refined uranium — in return for being allowed to develop nuclear energy for peaceful means, state legislatures across the country have enacted their own measures designed to exact an economic cost on the government in Tehran. Iranian representatives have longed contended that their nuclear ambitions are restricted to purely peaceful pursuits, but Israeli leaders — who stand to be the most threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran — sounded the alarm bell several years ago regarding what they say is Iran’s aggressive pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

According to Butler, in the past few years, California, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and New York have taken similar stands against Iran’s nuclear program.

“By enacting legislation to prohibit the state from doing business with companies who support a nuclear Iran, Pennsylvania will be aligned with other forward-thinking state entities, directly and positively sending the message to our nation and the world that a nuclear Iran will not be tolerated,” said Butler.