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House Bill 189 — Public contracts, boycotts

House Bill 189 — Public contracts, boycotts

Parrish Miller
February 24, 2023

Bill Description: House Bill 189 would prohibit the state or its political subdivisions from doing business with most companies that boycott firearm companies or several other traditional industries.

Rating: +1

Does it violate the principle of equal protection under the law? Examples include laws which discriminate or differentiate based on age, gender, or religion or which apply laws, regulations, rules, or penalties differently based on such characteristics. Conversely, does it restore or protect the principle of equal protection under the law?

There is a growing trend among certain companies to appeal to a specific type of clientele by announcing that they refuse to do business with certain industries they consider to be politically incorrect. In some cases, such performative boycotts are just virtue signaling, while others may be part of a larger conspiracy to force conservative companies and traditional industries out of business by denying them access to capital and other resources.

House Bill 189 would create Section 67-2347A, Idaho Code, to establish a policy that the state of Idaho and its political subdivisions will not do business with companies that engage in such boycotts. 

The bill specifically refers to boycotts targeting an individual or company that "engages in or supports the manufacture, distribution, sale, or use of firearms" or that "engages in or supports the exploration, production, utilization, transportation, sale, or manufacture of fossil fuel-based energy, timber, minerals, hydroelectric power, nuclear energy, or agriculture." 

Furthermore, the bill states that the state of Idaho and its political subdivisions will not themselves engage in any such boycotts. 

There are exceptions, of course. The prohibitions only apply to contracts worth $100,000 or more and only to companies with 10 or more full-time employees. 

Most troubling about this bill is that it gives the state and its political subdivisions an excuse to ignore the prohibition if they claim the requirements "are inconsistent with the public entity's constitutional or statutory duties related to the issuance, incurrence, or management of debt obligations or the deposit, custody, management, borrowing, or investment of funds." If that excuse doesn't apply, they can also just claim the requirements "would be contrary to the business needs of the public entity and prevent the public entity from fulfilling its legal duties or obligations."

It is appropriate for the state not to reward virtue signaling companies with valuable contracts funded with public money, but the breadth of the exceptions provided in this bill are concerning because they could allow an agency or municipality to effectively ignore this law by claiming one of these vague exceptions. 


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