Miss. Senator Says She Plans to Alter Iran Divestment Bill | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Miss. Senator Says She Plans to Alter Iran Divestment Bill

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi state senator trying to curtail investments in Iran says she's reworking the bill over concerns that it could hurt the state's ability to work with automaker Toyota Motor Corp.

The state Senate allowed Senate Bill 2807 to die at a deadline Monday without taking it up. However, the effort remains alive because the House earlier passed a similar bill, House Bill 1127.

Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, said she wants to remove part of the proposal that would ban state and local governments from contracting with any firm selling $20 million or more of goods and services to Iran's oil and gas sector.

"We do not want to cause any harm to local employers across our state," Collins said.

She said senators intend to amend the House version to include new language. Collins said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked her and Gov. Phil Bryant to consider the legislation when the pair visited Israel last year. Israel is trying to pressure Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons or supporting groups the Israeli government sees as enemies. Dozens of American states have passed similar bills, in addition to strengthened congressional sanctions in 2010.

"As far as I know, it's the first time Israel has ever asked us for support on something like this," Collins said.

Under the measure, the Mississippi state government would make a list of banned companies. Businesses with plans to close out their investments would be excluded. Lists made under identical laws in other states have included a company named Toyota Tsusho. That company, a subsidiary of Toyota, processes steel at the Blue Springs auto plant and assembles tires and wheels nearby. Its inclusion raised alarms.

"This is another example of out-of-state interest group legislation that has not been fully thought out, and after scrutiny, turns out to be bad for Mississippi," said Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson. Blount held up the Senate bill procedurally.

The lists in other states also include oil giant Royal Dutch Shell, as well as Mitsubishi Corp., a Japanese business with links to the Mitsubishi car company. It also includes Hyundai Heavy Industries, a South Korean company that makes ships, electrical transformers and other machinery that is no longer related to Hyundai Motor Co.

Collins' proposed change would leave a ban on Mississippi investing directly in such companies, but would allow the state treasurer and pension system to make exceptions. A provision that would have banned contracting with any banks loaning more than $20 million to anyone doing business in Iran's energy sector was removed earlier.

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