Divestment law’s scope could be expanded, state senator says

Divestment law’s scope could be expanded, state senator says

Pennsylvania took its sweet time divesting its pension plans from Iran and Sudan, but now that that’s a done deal, there may be more to come.
Sen. Mike Stack, D-Philadelphia, who sponsored the divestment legislation that Gov. Ed Rendell signed into law this past July, left open the possibility, that more nations on the federal government’s terrorist list could be added to the law.
“We’re giving it some thought,” Stack told The Chronicle. “We may introduce something in the near future.”
Stack was in Pittsburgh Tuesday meeting with Jewish advocacy groups.
In addition to Iran and Sudan, the countries on the U.S. State Department’s lists of state sponsors of terrorism are Cuba and Syria. Libya, Iraq, Yemen and North Korea were on the list, but have since been dropped.
Given the difficulty this state has experienced in passing a divestment act in previous years, Stack said supporters of divestment thought it wiser to concentrate on passing divestment for Iran and Sudan instead of expanding the list of affected states and perhaps hinder its chances for passage.
“Pennsylvania has been slow on this issue in our history,” Stack said. “There is this view that we’re a state and we’re not supposed to get involved in international affairs.”
To pass a bill, “we knew it was going to have to be a surgical approach,” he added.
State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, said he’s heard no talk about extending the law’s scope in the House, and since the General Assembly is nearing the end of the session, nothing would happen next year at the earliest.
“It’s possible,” Frankel said, “but you take a look at how long it took to get the current bill.”
Still, Israelis and pro-Israel organization may have a vested interest in seeing Syria added to the list. The country is an ally of Iran and is accused of acting as conduit for the transfer of arms from that Islamic republic to Hezbollah — a militant group that waged a border war with Israel in 2006.
Stack, who recently returned from a visit to Israel, noted that other states — namely, Missouri — have opted for what is called “terror free investment” for their own pension plans.

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at leec@thejewishchronicle.net.)

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