May 2, 2024 - News

Hillsborough moves toward investing in Israel

Illustration of the flag of Israel and currency in geometric shapes

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Hillsborough commissioners scheduled a public hearing to consider allowing the county to invest up to $25 million in Israel.

Why it matters: Tensions over the war in Gaza reached a boiling point this week in Hillsborough County after police arrested over a dozen protesters at the University of South Florida.

  • If approved, the amendment under consideration would make Hillsborough the second (and largest) county in Tampa Bay to allow such investments.

Catch up quick: Commissioner Michael Owen (R) asked the County Attorney's Office in December to see whether Hillsborough can invest in Israel bonds and, if not, to report back what changes must be made to allow it.

  • Its review found that Israel Bonds are not eligible investments per the county's Investment Policy Ordinance. The commission then voted 6-1 in February to draft an amendment to change that.

The fine print: The amendment to the Investment Policy Ordinance allows for investments in "rated or unrated bonds, notes, or instruments backed by the full faith and credit of the government of Israel."

Be smart: Owen's amendment will allow the county to purchase these bonds but won't require it to do so.

Yes, but: Owen made clear in December that his motivation for backing the policy change was tied to current events, citing what he described as a "critical moment in our history."

  • The state boosted its investments in Israel bonds after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, with CFO Jimmy Patronis touting it as a means to "assist our allies."
  • Miami-Dade County followed suit and described its increased investment as a "clear message" that it stands with Israel.

What's next: The commission will hold a hearing on the amendment at 10am on May 15.

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