State can invest in Israeli bonds

The Colorado Statesman

Senate Minority Leader Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, didn’t mince any words on May 5 when he acknowledged that the recent legislative session has been described as “contentious, difficult, and extraordinary long.” It’s that much more compelling, he told an audience at the conclusion of the annual AIPAC meeting at the Grand Hyatt Denver, that the nation state of Israel brought together Colorado Republicans and Democrats to pass Senate Bill 176. “This bill, more than anything, represents bipartisanship and teamwork,” Scheffel lauded.

SB 176, which Scheffel sponsored in the senate along with Sen. Morgan Carrol, D-Aurora, allows the state treasurer to invest state funds in double-A rated Israeli bonds for the first time ever. Colorado will join almost two dozen other states which are likewise authorized to make such foreign investments.

Scheffel said he wrote the bill after visiting Israel last year and witnessed a lot of commonality in entrepreneurship with Colorado. But his belief in Israel, he told observers at the bill signing last week, goes back a long ways before that.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signs SB 176 on May 5 at the Grand Hyatt Denver, where an annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Council has just wrapped up. Among those joining the governor for the bill signing ceremony are bill sponsors Rep. Justin Everett, R-Littleton, left, Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver (next to Hickenlooper) and Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker. Larry Mizel stands behind Hickenlooper as do other supporters of the measure which allows Colorado to invest in double-A rated Israeli bonds.

“I have aways known my position with Israel — it is part of my upbringing, my faith, who I am,” Scheffel explained. “And one gets asked about that periodically and one responds. But when you take on the badge of Colorado state senator, it becomes a little more public, and now I get asked all the time and people pay attention to what I say,” Scheffel continued.

“And now when folks ask me where I stand as a Colorado state senator, I say I stand with Israel.”

Scheffel added, “Senate Bill 176 is good policy for the state of Colorado, good for the citizenry of Colorado, and a tool in the toolbox for the Colorado state treaurer, and emphasizes the bond we share and the relationship we have with the state of Israel.”

The bill was sponsored in the House — where it was approved, 60-4, without debate on May 1 — by state Reps. Angela Williams, D-Denver, and Justin Everett, R-Littleton. A week earlier the measure was passed in the senate.

With most of the bipartisan legislative leadership standing behind him at the bill signing ceremony and a host of supporters watching in the hotel foyer, Denver businessman and philanhropist Larry Mizel acknowledged that it wasn’t just by accident that this legislation was passed. Supporters of the pro-Israel investment policy targeted the bill sponsors early on as key representatives of various coalitions which were needed to usher it through.

“It was the absolute necessity of bringing people together,” Mizel explained.

To those who worked to get SB 176 approved in the legislature, Mizel said he and supporters will always remember them.

And to the few legislators who voted against the measure, Mizel also had a few words: “On those that opposed ...we’ll always remember. Afterall, it is politics.”

Gov. Hickenlooper, who traveled to Israel last month with Mizel and some friends, said SB 176 not only allows the state treasurer to invest in Israeli bonds for the first time, but also makes a statement about bipartisanship in the Colorado General Assembly.

The Governor pointed out the similarities of Israel and Colorado, each which are hotbeds of innovation and full of entrepreneurs and start-ups. He also noted their joint focus on agricuture and water conservation.

“Being able to invest in each other’s business and in the state of Israel has been brought one step closer. It already is very powerful, this takes it one step closer,” Hickenlooper noted.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com