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House sends governor ban on 'anti-fossil fuel' financial institutions

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Legislation sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday would bar state government from doing business with financial institutions that “boycott energy companies” — unless doing so would cost the state money. The Holly Energy Partners refinery in west Tulsa is pictured on Feb. 22.

Legislation sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday would bar state government from doing business with financial institutions that “boycott energy companies” — unless doing so would cost the state money.

House Bill 2034, by Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, appears to be part of a larger national effort to shield fossil fuel industries from disinvestment by banks and other lenders.

A critic of the bill, Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City, noted that HB 2034 was three pages long when it left the House earlier this spring and came back from the Senate at 19 pages — most of which, Fugate said, seemed to be cribbed from other states’ bills.

McBride said the new language was added “at the request of the state treasurer, state pension fund managers and the Oklahoma Bankers Association to assure the legislation works for all Oklahomans.”

Fugate, though, pointed out that the word “Oklahoma” doesn’t appear in the bill and asked if it would not actually work to the benefit of state oil and gas producers’ competitors.

He also asked how it would apply to institutions that boycott Russian oil and gas.

McBride waved aside such questions and said the bill is “good for Oklahoma.”

The bill requires the treasurer to maintain “a list of financial companies that boycott energy companies.” Governmental entities, including pension funds, are to divest themselves of investments in those institutions unless the institutions show they are not discriminating against fossil fuel-related companies.

The bill allows exceptions, though, in cases in which divestiture would not be in the state’s best financial interests.

The House sent HB 2034 to the governor one day after passing a resolution seeking to expand the state’s feud with ice cream-maker Ben and Jerry’s.

Two years ago the House passed and Stitt signed legislation barring the state from doing business with companies boycotting Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.

A year ago Ben and Jerry’s said it would no longer sell ice cream in the occupied West Bank, prompting U.S. Sen. James Lankford to call for Oklahoma to bar the state from doing business with the popular brand and to ban it outright in the state.

Tuesday’s HR 1063, also by McBride, broadens the attack to Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s parent company, which the resolution indicates has basically ignored the state’s demands to comply with the state law.

Also sent to the governor on Wednesday was HB 2974, by Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, which will require county election boards to identify addresses with more than 10 registered voters and refer them to local district attorneys for investigation. The bill exempts nursing homes, veterans centers, medical facilities, multi-unit housing, military installations and “other locations authorized in writing by the Secretary of the State Election Board.”

Not sent to the governor were eight medical marijuana bills that remain a high priority for the House.

House authors rejected Senate amendments on all eight, which means they’re headed for further negotiations with time now becoming an issue.

Constitutional deadline for final adjournment is May 27 but could easily occur before then if a budget agreement is reached.

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Republicans were reluctant to criticize Gov. Stitt directly, but Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said: “I hope all Oklahomans are taking note of the fact that the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate have sent a clear signal that Governor Stitt shouldn’t be responsible for Oklahoma tax dollars.”

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