Idaho, Wyoming propose bank ban bills for oil, gun boycotts

Idaho and Wyoming have joined other red states by introducing legislation to ban banks that “boycott” gun manufacturers or energy-related companies.

Idaho House bills 189 and 190 introduced by Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, left committees with do-pass recommendations and are headed for third readings on the House floor.

Ehardt could not be reached for comment.

The bills ask for a certification from banks and credit unions that they will not boycott any individual or company that “engages in or supports the exploration, production, utilization, transportation, sale or manufacture of fossil fuel-based energy, timber, minerals, hydroelectric power, nuclear energy, or agriculture or any company that “engages in or supports the manufacture, distribution, sale or use of firearms.”

According to the legislation, a boycott occurs when a financial institution “without a reasonable business purpose refuses to offer financial services to an individual or organization, terminates business with an individual or organization, or takes another action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with an individual or organization because the individual or organization engages in a particular business sector.”

Idaho House Bill 190 “ensures that banks and credit unions, designated by the Idaho State Treasurer as depositories for public monies, do not boycott industries important to our state and the livelihood of our citizens,” said Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth in an emailed statement.

Ellsworth, who is listed as a contact for both HO189 and HO190, said she worked for several months with a number of stakeholders including legislators, banks, credit unions and Idaho industry preparing the bill. Idaho banks and credit unions are neutral on the legislation, she said.

When asked about problems other states have encountered in issuing debt after passing such legislation, Ellsworth responded, the “bill is uniquely an Idaho bill providing exemptions, ensuring state monies are being used in the best interest of Idaho citizens and industries.”

The Idaho bills stipulate they apply to financial services restricting business to an individual or organization “without a reasonable business purpose, directly related to promoting the fiscal stability of a financial institution.”

In HO 189, the state and its subdivisions can ignore the prohibition if they claim the requirements are “inconsistent with the public entity’s constitutional or statutory duties related to the issuance, incurrence, or management of debt obligations or the deposit, custody, management, borrowing or investment of the funds.”

In Wyoming, Senate File 159, would prohibit government entities from entering into contracts with companies for goods and services, if those companies engage in economic boycotts for ideological reasons.

Senate File 172 has the same tenor but applies to hiring and retention of investment managers.

Both bills have passed the Senate but passed out of the House Appropriations Committee with a “do not pass” recommendation, and are awaiting a first reading on the House floor. Both bills were sponsored by Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester.

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