Bill Description: House Bill 190 would prohibit the state from depositing public money in most banks or credit unions that boycott firearm companies or several other traditional industries.
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 190 would amend sections 26-2155 and 67-2739, Idaho Code, which deal with the credit unions and banks that the state treasurer designates as qualified state depositories. These amendments would establish a policy that, in exchange for this designation, such institutions must agree not to engage in virtue-signaling 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."
There are broad exceptions, unfortunately, that allow financial institutions to defend behavior associated with such boycotts as "a reasonable business purpose" because such behaviors are "directly related to promoting the financial success or stability of a financial institution, mitigating risk to a financial institution, complying with legal or regulatory requirements, or limiting liability of a financial institution."
It is appropriate for the state not to reward financial institutions that boycott core Idaho industries with the designation of a qualified state depository for public money, but the breadth of the exceptions provided in this bill remains concerning because they could allow a financial institution to effectively ignore this law by claiming one of these vague exceptions.