Legislature takes up Iran divestment bill

Legislature takes up Iran divestment bill

HARRISBURG — Members of Pittsburgh’s Iran Task Force were in Harrisburg Tuesday to support state Rep. Josh Shapiro as he announced he would reintroduce his terror-free investing legislation.
“I feel strongly about the danger nuclear Iran poses to the world,” Iran Task Force co-chair David Steinbach said. “I want to be proactive.”
The 20 members of the Iran task force that went to Harrisburg were very diverse. There were men and women of all ages, including non-Jews as well. They were working together to support a common cause.
Members of the task force stood behind Shapiro at a press conference. Shapiro, a Montgomery County Democrat, said the bill would require two of Pennsylvania’s pension funds, the Public School Employees’ Retirement System and the State Employees Retirement System, to no longer invest in foreign companies that did business with Iran or Sudan.
The bill breezed through the House last session by a vote of 185-15. However, it never came to a vote in the Senate.
“There is a moral imperative for us to act,” Shapiro said. “We must use our economic power to isolate our enemies and strengthen our allies.”
Shapiro, along with his co-sponsor, state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) expect the bill to again pass in the House, where Majority Leader Todd Eachus plans to bring it to a quick vote.
“Pennsylvania supports this,” Eachus said. “Average working Pennsylvanians don’t want to see their portfolios invested in terrorist countries. We will be moving this bill quickly. We will not look the other way on a place like Darfur or Iran.”
Frankel said Tuesday’s overt support for the bill bodes well for its chances.
“I think it’s a good showing of support,” he said. “You have the House Majority Leader putting it through the House, so hopefully we will run quickly with it.”
Jeffrey Cohan, director of community and public affairs for the United Jewish Federation, is the co-chair of the Iran Task Force and has been working closely with Shapiro on this bill since it was first introduced.
“Our pension funds have money invested in companies that do business in Iran,” he said. “Pennsylvania tax dollars are indirectly killing sons and daughters of Pennsylvania.”
One concern was brought up to Shapiro during the press conference about future investing in Iran — what if there’s a regime change?
The State Department makes and maintains a list of countries it considers to be terrorist nations, Shapiro said. Currently, Iran is on that list, but if things were to change and they were removed, investment could
Both Shapiro and Cohan stressed that 18 states and 23 cities have already adopted similar legislation for divesting in companies that do business with Iran or Sudan.
“There are no negative outcomes for divesting in Iran,” Cohan said. “Other states have done it, and it has been successful.”
Following the press conference, members of the task force met with aids to eight different senators to voice their support for the bill, attempting to sway some wavering or opposed lawmakers to their side.
Task force members left Harrisburg feeling confident about the support they received there.
The senators who supported the bill the first time continued to back it, while newly elected senators listened carefully to the task force members who presented their case. While some had concerns, overall the response was positive.
The Iran Task Force will continue to lobby the senators over the next few weeks. However, they will have to wait for the Senate vote to see if the legislation passes.
“I think today went well,” Steinbach said. “We got in to see the senators we wanted. I’m hopeful by the end of this session the bill will be passed.”

(Mike Zoller can be reached at mikez@thejewishchronicle.net)

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