From Boycott Bill to Budget Amendment

The Maryland House of Delegates adopted an amendment to the budget this week, transforming the boycott bill into a budget amendment.

“The General Assembly finds that … the boycott adopted by the American Studies Association is consistent with a movement known as boycott, divestment and sanctions, designed to delegitimize the democratic State of Israel,” reads the amendment. “The General Assembly declares that it is the policy of the state to … condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the American Studies Association’s academic boycott against Israel as an inappropriate action on the part of the academic community.”

The change, sponsored by Delegate Ben Kramer (D-District 19), who sponsored the original House Bill 998, goes on to “strongly encourage” institutions of higher education to support open discourse and academic freedom, especially with institutions in countries Maryland has a Declaration of Cooperation with.

The bill and its Senate counterpart were dropped earlier in the session with a great deal of legislative support, including more than 50 co-sponsors on the House bill. The early March hearings saw the Washington and Baltimore Jewish communities split on the issue and, with that, backing weaken.

In the past month, the financial penalties the original bills were centered on were stripped and the language adjusted to focus more on academic freedom and the condemnation of the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israeli institutions.

From the House, the budget, along with the new amendments, goes to the Senate for review and a vote. The General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session closes April 7.

hnorris@jewishtimes.com

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