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Revised NY State Assembly anti-boycott bill introduced

Revised NY State Assembly anti-boycott bill introduced

Would offset funds used to support boycott groups from state aid, unlike prior bill that cut off all state aid

We previously reported that a NY State Assembly bill was pulled at the last minute from the Higher Education Committee after concerns were raised as to whether the bill was constitutional or violated academic freedom.

This came as a surprise to many since the bill is backed by Speaker Sheldon Silver, and his backing virtually guarantees passage.

In the context of a federal anti-boycott bill, Law Professor Eugene Volokh believes the bill is constitutional, although the punishment of an entire university — now out of the Assembly bill — could be problematic (h/t Instapundit):

The federal government thus probably has broad power to say “if you want federal funds, you can’t exclude Israeli institutions and scholars from your programs,” just as it can say “if you want federal funds, you can’t discriminate against women in your programs,” or “if you want university funds, you can’t exclude anyone from membership or leadership in your student organization.” Nor does it matter that the government’s interest in preventing sex discrimination may be seen by some as more weighty than the government’s interest in preventing boycotts against Israel. Grove City College didn’t rely on the strength of the government interest — it relied on what it saw as the weakness of the First Amendment claim when it came to restrictions on government funds.

As reported by the Albany (NY) Times Union, the NY State Assembly bill has been reintroduced:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has amended a bill to prevent state funds from going to a group that has launched an academic boycott of Israel.

The legislation, which was yanked from consideration by the Higher Education Committee earlier this week due to free-speech concerns, was reintroduced Thursday night in its new form….

While Silver’s original bill would have punished any institution that continued to use state funds to support a boycotting academic group, the new version is far less punitive: It would take away from those schools only the amount of state funding equal to the amount that goes to support the group.

“We are simply saying you cannot use state funds — taxpayer dollars — to participate in a hateful and bigoted boycott,” Silver’s spokesman Michael Whyland said in an email. “It does not limit an academic entity or organization from participating in such a boycott, it only says you cannot use state funds to do so.”

Legislative efforts to protest the boycott have become less harsh as the bills have moved through both chambers. Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, initially said it would craft a measure cutting off within 30 days all state funds to institutions that support groups undertaking ASA-style boycotts. Instead, the bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly last week would cut off funding to the groups, not the schools.

The language of the revised bill is here.

NY State Assembly Anti-Boycott Bill 8392–A

(Featured Image – Anti-Israel BDS protest York University)


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I think the revised bill is the better option if only because it focuses specifically on the hatefulness of the ASA and other academic groups that participate in the BDS foolishness. But no doubt our colleagues will continue to protest and call this bill a denial of ‘academic freedom’.