HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Following the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February, Pennsylvania lawmakers hit back by introducing several pieces and packages of legislation to eliminate ties, investments, and dependency with Russia.
One piece of the legislation focused specifically on divesting commonwealth investments from any Russian or Belarusian assets. House Bill 2447, introduced last spring by House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) passed the lower chamber unanimously in April.
“We must continue to do our part to divest from Russia,” said Benninghoff in March when he, and Republican House members introduced a package of legislation aimed at reducing dependency on Russia and promoting Pennsylvania energy production.
Yesterday, Benninghoff’s bill passed unanimously, again, this time in the upper chamber.
“The Russian and Belarusian Divestment Act passed the House and the Senate unanimously, which is a furtherance of the intended goal, which is to have Pennsylvania speak with one voice that we stand with not only the people of Ukraine, but more importantly against this unprovoked aggression by Russia and their allies in Belarus,” said Jason Gottesman, Press Secretary for the Majority Leader and the House Republican Caucus spokesperson.
Gottesman says the bill divests public funds and also prevents future investments tied to Russian or Belarusian assets.
“At the outbreak of this unprovoked aggression by Russia against the people and government of Ukraine back in February, Pennsylvania had at least $350 million of investments in Russian and Belarusian financial assets,” said Gottesman, who added that the investments came from the three major pension funds: the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS), the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) and the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System (PMRS), as well as additional Treasury investments.
“A lot of those investments and those boards had already taken the steps of starting the divestment process themselves, but this gives them legislative authorization to do so,” said Gottesman.
Even though $350 million out of the state’s largest pension funds may not be a ton when looking at the bigger picture, Gottesman says no amount is too little to constrict a tyrant and their allies.
“No amount is too small to make sure that we’re trying to marginalize Putin and his allies,” said Gottesman. “Certainly, what this says, especially with the unanimous support in the House and unanimous support in the Senate, and what we hope is a very swift signature from Governor Wolf, is that Pennsylvania is speaking with one voice, not just for the people of Ukraine and in solidarity with them, but also and most importantly, against Vladimir Putin and his geopolitical allies who have shown that they are going to be belligerent in their quest for global dominance,” he added.