The state House of Representatives has passed an amended bill that would bar companies with substantial investments in Iran’s energy sector from doing business with Pennsylvania.
House Bill 201, which more broadly deals with bids for state contracts, now includes the so-called “Iran-Free Procurement” amendment. The bill now moves to the Senate where the state Jewish lobbying body, the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition (PJC), is working for its passage.
State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill), is the prime sponsor of the amendment, but Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Bradford Woods), has also signed on as a co-sponsor.
If enacted, the bill would bar any company that invests 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 (DGS).
The DGS would be required to maintain a list of companies that invest $20 million in Iran’s energy sector, including oil and natural gas tankers, or equipment used to make pipelines that transport oil or natural gas out of Iran.
“When you’re talking about the energy sector, $20 million is a pretty low threshold,” Frankel said, adding that it’s unlikely many smaller investments would be made in Iran.
Companies that want to enter into a $1 million-plus DGS contract would have to file an affidavit with the department certifying that it is not on the list of companies that do business with Iran. A company filing a false affidavit could face a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the investment, whichever is greater.
Sen. Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) has introduced a similar bill in the Senate, but PJC Executive Director Hank Butler said the PJC is pushing the House version since it has already cleared the House, and Stack said he can get behind that bill as well.
Frankel said the two bills are identical anyhow. “I’ve just had the first opportunity to move the thing forward,” he said.
Likewise, Stack said he can support the House version over his.
“I want to make sure Pennsylvania is not in bed with terrorist nations like Iran, who have declared to be Israel’s mortal enemies,” Stack said, “and I don’t care about authorship at all.”
According to Frankel, seven other states — California, New Jersey, Michigan, Maryland, Indiana, Florida, New York and Wisconsin — have already enacted identical legislation.
The PJC, the lobbying arm for the state’s federations, is supporting the legislation.
“We have already started to work on the bill in the Senate,” Butler told the Chronicle.
The bill is part of a two-pronged legislative effort to punish companies that continue to support Iran’s energy sector, while stepping up pressure on the Islamic Republic to abandon any efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
In 2010, the legislature passed Act 44, which requires the state’s four retirement funds to divest from companies doing business with Iran or Sudan. A report this year from the state Treasury Department shows that almost 25 companies have ceased business with Iran as a result of the act.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)