Texas governor signs amendment to limit scope of state Israel boycott law

(JTA) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation that limits the scope of a law already on the books that bans the state from doing business with Israel boycotters.

The new legislation exempts individuals and businesses valued at less than $100,000 or employing fewer than ten full-time employees from the ban on doing business with companies who abide by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

The new legislation comes two weeks after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction against the enforcement of the state law after hearing testimony from a Palestinian speech pathologist who lost her contract with a Texas school district for refusing to sign a contract that said she does not boycott Israel.
Following the signing of the new legislation on Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had appealed the preliminary injunction to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, filed a motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit brought by several Texas contractors who claimed it violated their right to free speech, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“The law still discriminates against companies that engage in political consumer boycotts of Israel, which is a right protected by the First Amendment,” Tommy Buser-Clancy of the ACLU told the newspaper. “An unconstitutional law cannot be salvaged merely by making it apply to fewer people.”

“The concerns we’ve heard are from individuals or those who have small contracts,” Republican state Rep. Phil King, who authored the original 2017 law and sponsored the amended legislation, said in a statement on Thursday. “This bill addresses those issues and should resolve the litigation.”

Over 25 states in recent years have passed similar laws which punish businesses that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Federal courts in Arizona and Kansas also have blocked similar state anti-boycott laws.

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