Wrapping up a special legislative session shadowed by the war between Israel and Hamas, the Florida Senate on Wednesday passed measures to expand sanctions against Iran and provide money to bolster security at Jewish day schools and preschools.
The Senate unanimously approved the bills, which passed the House on Tuesday. They are ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Legislative leaders called the special session after the Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, touching off a war that has killed thousands of people in Israel and Gaza.
While the special session also addressed issues such as providing aid to areas hit by Hurricane Idalia, lawmakers focused heavily on showing support for Israel and Jewish residents of Florida. That included passing bills to target Iran, a key backer of Hamas, and to counter a rise in anti-Semitism.
One of the bills (HB 5C) would expand restrictions on state investments in businesses with ties to Iran. The measure would expand a 2007 law that requires the State Board of Administration to divest from what are known as “scrutinized” companies with links to Iran’s petroleum industry. Certain financial criteria are used in determining whether companies land on the scrutinized list.
The State Board of Administration manages Florida’s massive pension fund and other investments. Under the bill, the investment restrictions would expand to other types of industries, such as the financial, construction, manufacturing, textile and manufacturing sectors.
House and Senate bill sponsors acknowledged they do not know how many companies could be affected by the expansion. But supporters said it is important for Florida to show that it does not want state money supporting Iran.
“They don’t want America to survive,” Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said Wednesday before the Senate passed the bill. “They stand in opposition to everything we stand for.”
But some Democratic lawmakers questioned whether the bill would have much effect. Among other things, the federal government has imposed a wide range of economic sanctions against Iran in the decades since hostages were taken at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.
“I just want to make sure we’re doing real things here, as opposed to puffery,” Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-Sunny Isles Beach, said.