State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) hailed today’s unanimous House passage of a bill that would require the state treasurer and state pension funds to withdraw investments from foreign companies doing substantial business with the governments of Iran or Sudan.
“We shouldn’t have one dollar of public pension funds invested in companies that do substantial business with either of those regimes, let alone an estimated $436 million,” said Frankel, who has long advocated for the divestment legislation as a member of the House State Government Committee.
“The crisis in Sudan is the first time the United States government has labeled an ongoing international human rights crisis as genocide,” Frankel said. “Estimates are that between 200,000 and 400,000 have died. Civilians have been systematically killed, raped and starved.
“Many Holocaust survivors have told me they want part of their legacy to be that the Holocaust should never be forgotten, but also that it should never happen again. The United States has tragically fallen short of that ideal in the past, in coming to the aid of Holocaust victims far too late in light of what our government knew and when it knew it. More recently, we failed in Rwanda in the 1990s, and in the present, the world community has been slow to respond to the Darfur genocide in Sudan. We cannot change the past, but we have a moral imperative to use our influence in Darfur. Pennsylvania has the opportunity to make a difference as part of a larger community of state and local governments that are divesting from companies with ties to Sudan,” Frankel said.
“Iran presents another case where we can and must use our influence. There has been much discussion of possible military intervention to change the behavior of the Iranian government. In light of the situation in Iraq, and the commitment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, we should first take every non-military step we can with regard to Iran,” he said.
The bill (S.B. 928) would require the withholding of Pennsylvania’s pension fund investments in the Public School Employees’ Retirement System, State Employees’ Retirement System and Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System from foreign companies that are helping the Sudanese government perpetuate genocide and the Iranian government sponsor terrorism. U.S. companies are already prohibited from such investments. The bill also would put the same restriction into law for the state Treasurer’s Office.
The House passed a similar bill in June 2008, but it died at the end of the session due to Senate inaction. The House also passed a similar bill last December.
“We can and must learn lessons from the past. I am pleased the state Senate has seen the light, and I hope the governor will soon sign this bill into law,” Frankel said.