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Ban on state pension investments in Iran-linked businesses headed for DeSantis’ desk

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Ban on state pension investments in Iran-linked businesses headed for DeSantis’ desk

Nov 08, 2023 | 1:51 pm ET
By Michael Moline
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Ban on state pension investments in Iran-linked businesses headed for DeSantis’ desk
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Republican Sen. Bryan Avila and Democrat Jason PIzzo debate on the Senate floor on Nov. 8, 2023. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

The Florida Legislature voted final passage Wednesday of legislation that broadens the state’s ban on investing Florida’s $241 billion state pension fund in companies that do business with the Iranian energy and petroleum industries to other sectors of that country’s economy.

Both chambers voted for the measure during Florida’s special legislative session this week, and the legislation is now headed for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

Existing legislation forbids the State Board of Administration — comprising Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, all Republicans overseeing the pension fund, to invest in companies doing business with the Iranian petroleum industry. Their names go on the “Iran Petroleum Sector List.”

The bill would expand the petroleum list into a broader “Scrutinized Companies with Activities in Iran Terrorism Sectors List” that would sanction companies that after Jan. 10, 2024, trace more than 10% of their revenues or assets in the Iranian energy and petrochemical but also financial, construction, manufacturing, textile, mining, metals, shipping, shipbuilding, or port sectors. It also targets companies with single or multiple investments of $20 million or more in those sectors of the Iranian economy. Furthermore, these companies would be ineligible for state contracts worth than $1 million or more.

Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat representing parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, said he planned to vote on the measure despite doubts it would make much difference.

“Just outside of this being just a piece of fluff and 900 loopholes in it, can you tell me if the state of Florida right now is currently contracting with any company that’s expected to be added to this list?” Pizzo asked bill sponsor Byran Avila, a Republican from Miami-Dade.

Avila replied that about 75 companies are on the list now, but he couldn’t say how many might be added.

“Iran has been reducing its dependence on oil and gas revenues in an effort, certainly, to circumvent the current sanctions that are in place. So, they are primarily now investing in other sectors, by which then they are financing a lot of the terrorist groups in the region,” Avila said.

“Something that I’ve learned is that when our enemy speaks and they say things, we better believe them,” Avila added. “Friends, they don’t want America to survive. They stand in opposition to everything that we stand for, every idea ideal or principle, that American way that we fight for every day, is what they want to put in the ground permanently.”