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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Missouri House is advancing a proposal to ban public contractors from protesting Israel.

House lawmakers gave the bill initial approval in a voice vote Tuesday. If enacted, it would prohibit state and local governments from contracting with companies boycotting Israel.

The bill is in response to an increasingly visible protest movement toward Israel’s policies toward Palestinians. House Speaker Todd Richardson proposed the bill. Backers say the goal is to support a country that’s a trade partner to Missouri.

More than 20 other states have such policies. A federal judge blocked a law in Kansas pending a court challenge.

Critics in the Missouri House voiced similar concerns about free speech rights.

The measure needs another vote of approval to head to the Senate, where a similar bill has stalled.