In February, State Senators Carroll and Scheffel introduced SB 13-176, which authorized the state treasurer to invest state moneys in debt obligations backed by the full faith and credit of the state of Israel. There was no explanation of how this bill would benefit Colorado or why the bill was needed.
At a hearing before the Senate finance committee on April 16 (where I spoke against the bill), these senators and Colorado Deputy Treasurer Brett Johnson provided only one reason for the bill. According to them, the treasurer needed a new tool that would allow him to invest Colorado taxpayers' money in a foreign country. Reacting to public input prior to the hearing, the sponsors also proposed adding two amendments that are discussed below.
During the public comment period, 24 people signed up to speak in opposition, whereas only one person spoke in support. Opponents of the bill questioned why the bill named Israel. Proponents didn't provide an answer for this question.
Proponents also could not explain how investing money in a foreign nation would be of greater benefit to Colorado than directly investing the money in Colorado.
During the public participation, opponents pointed out that Israel's credit rating was not in the highest categories. Since safety is a key consideration, Senator Michael Johnston, the finance committee chair, asked if it would be more logical to select a nation with a higher credit rating than Israel. The deputy treasurer couldn't answer why Israel was chosen.
The bill's first amendment said it was not intended to reflect any legislative position regarding U.S. foreign policy. However, the choice of Israel calls this statement into question.
The second amendment said the investment could be made only if the Israeli bond was rated in one of the two highest categories. The Chair changed this amendment by replacing the words 'the State of Israel' with 'a nation whose bonds are in the two highest rating categories'. The Committee narrowly approved this change. Although the bill no longer contained mention of Israel, the title still refers to Israel, creating a confusing situation.
The Finance Committee then voted to send the bill to the full Senate by a 4-to-1 margin with Senator Jahn courageously voting no.
Through their participation, people helped change this bill. Despite the improvements though, please continue urging senators to oppose this bill.