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Nassau County bill aims at boycott-Israel movement

Nassau County Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, center,

Nassau County Democratic Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, center, and members of the Nassau County Democratic Legislative Caucus, announce the filing of the Financial Disclosure Enhancement Bill on Monday, May 9, 2016 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau lawmakers want to deny county contracts to companies participating in a political movement to boycott Israeli goods and services.

The County Legislature’s Rules Committee on Monday unanimously approved a bill that would disqualify bidders for county work if they’ve boycotted or divested from Israeli businesses or supported sanctions against Israel — known as the “BDS movement.”

The bill, to be considered by the full legislature on May 23, is similar to measures introduced by Nassau-based lawmakers in the state senate and assembly this year.

County officials did not immediately identify any current vendors that have supported the BDS movement.

“We think it just stands for justice,” Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) said of the bill.

The BDS seeks to pressure Israel to end what organizers call discriminatory government policies toward Palestinians.

Opponents say the movement is discriminatory.

Nassau’s bill calls BDS “a damaging, discriminatory policy,” and says it “may prevent the procurement of goods or services of the best quality and at the most competitive prices.”

Companies seeking county work that have participated in BDS activities would be deemed “nonresponsive” bidders. Participation is defined as “any action politically motivated and intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations with Israeli owned or controlled businesses.”

Authors of the county bill said it does not violate civil liberties or trade laws.

County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, said in a statement: “We support the effort to ban companies with discriminatory practices from contracting with Nassau County.”

Also Monday, legislative Democrats introduced a bill to close what they called loopholes in a new county law requiring vendors to disclose political campaign contributions.

The law mandates that vendors and their principals list contributions to the campaigns of all county elected officials and candidates.

The Democrats’ bill would for the first time cover contributions to political party committees and local clubs, which often have close ties to county leaders.

“The County can do better and this bill does just that,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said, “No loophole exists.” She noted that all political party and club contributions are available on the State Board of Elections’ website.

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