Special to the Ledger
HARTFORD – Flanked by legislators and leaders of Connecticut’s pro-Israel community, Governor Dannel P. Malloy formally signed legislation Friday authored by State Rep. Matt Lesser of Middletown that bars state contracts from going to companies that do business with Iran.
“Investments in Iran’s energy sector violate U.S. and international laws, but some corporations choose to flout the law,” said Lesser, who serves as an assistant majority leader and vice chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee.
“The state has the right to set rules for state contracts, but it has the duty to safeguard the public’s tax money,” Lesser said. “The current Iranian regime is a state sponsor of terrorism, it flagrantly violates the civil rights of its own citizens, and it is in violation of its own commitments regarding nuclear nonproliferation. Most importantly, these investments violate the law.”
In particular, Lesser cited a 1996 terrorist attack that killed West Hartford native and Yale graduate Matthew Eisenfeld, an attack the U.S. State Department has found was directly sponsored by the Iranian regime.
Lesser said, “We cannot choose to ignore international affairs just because we live in Connecticut, but we can choose where to send our state tax dollars. It’s important we do our part to support the policy of the President and the Congress in this regard.”
“We also need to tell companies that ignore U.S. sanctions that they’re not welcome in Connecticut,” Lesser added.
Rep. Lesser tipped his cap to the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT) and the Connecticut Region of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for their advocacy in support of the legislation. JFACT was the lead organization working on the bill. JFACT Board Chairman Rob Lesser of Stamford and JFACT Director Robert Fishman were on hand for the bill signing ceremony, as was ADL Regional Director Gary Jones.
Fishman testified in support of the bill in front of the committee. In addition, written testimony was submitted by Jones, Jason Isaacson of American Jewish Committee, David Ibsen of United Against Nuclear Iran and Dr. Leonard Eisenfeld of West Hartford, Matthew Eisenfeld’s father. Working behind the scenes, noted Fishman, was Laura Zimmerman of the Hartford area Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), who organized a community lobbying effort on behalf of the bill.
“On behalf of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut and United Against Nuclear Iran, we greatly appreciate the sponsorship of HB 5358 proposed by Rep. Matthew Lesser and his diligent work to achieve passage and the signing of Governor Malloy today,” Fishman said.
Lesser sponsored similar legislation in 2012 which passed the House but was not approved by the state Senate. This year it passed both houses unanimously.
“It would be a grave mistake to allow the Iranian regime, with one of the world’s worst human rights records, a regime that sponsors terrorism, a regime with an acknowledged ideology of dominating the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and achieving domination over Western countries, to have nuclear weapons. The goal is to create enough economic and political pressure so that Iran will agree not to produce weapon-grade uranium and will subject itself to full verification,” noted Rep. David Baram, who, along with Sen. Gayle Slossberg of Milford, Rep. Brian Becker of West Hartford and Rep. Tony Hwang of Fairfield (a ranking member of the GAE), pushed hard for the bill’s passage.
In signing the legislation, Governor Malloy mentioned that he had supported similar action while mayor of Stamford. On the state level, this is the second such legislative bill signed by Malloy. Three years ago, the Connecticut governor signed the Divestment in Iran and Sudan bill, which was also guided by JFACT.