The Lead

Pa. Senate committee advances proposals responding to Russia’s war on Ukraine

By: - June 14, 2022 2:52 pm

The Pennsylvania Capitol is illuminated blue and yellow in solidarity with Ukraine on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022 (Capital-Star photo).

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Pennsylvania lawmakers and state officials began efforts to draft legislation and encourage the divestment of public funds from Russian and Belarusian sources.

With the selling of the state’s assets already underway, the Senate State Government Committee unanimously voted on Tuesday to advance two pieces of legislation prohibiting government contracts with Russia and Belarus and divesting public holdings connected with the countries as the war on Ukraine continues.

“As a state senator who represents a significant community of Ukrainian Americans, I would hope that Pennsylvania entities would refuse to do business with war criminals,” Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, who chairs the panel, said.

Argall’s legislation prohibits all Russian and Belarusian connections within government investments, grants, and state tax credits. The bill applies to companies with direct equity share or business operations with Russia or Belarus, headquartered or have a principal place of business in the countries, or support, assist, or facilitate the countries in the war in Ukraine.

A bill introduced by House Majority Leader Kerry Benninighoff, R-Centre, proposes divesting public funds — such as Public School Employees’ Retirement System investments — from Russia and Belarus. 

He drafted the legislation days after the invasion of Ukraine, saying lawmakers have “a moral obligation to ensure that our public fund investments are not inadvertently supporting those who are engaging in an unprovoked invasion of their democratically elected neighbors.”

The Senate State Government Committee held a public hearing on the legislation ahead of Tuesday’s vote with input from state officials and stakeholders.

“Even one dollar invested in Russia right now is one dollar too many,” Republican state Treasurer Stacy Garrity, who urged the state’s public pension systems to divest from Russian holdings, told the Senate panel.

Most testifiers on Tuesday supported the proposals. While the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau declined to take an official stance, a representative expressed concern with rising gas prices.

Both bills go to the Senate for full consideration.

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