SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House on Wednesday finally passed a bill aimed at banning government investments in assets tied to Russia and Belarus in retaliation for their participation in the war in Ukraine.
House Bill 1293 by Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, requires the state’s five pension systems to divest their interests in companies based in any of those countries, as well as their national debt, and prohibits them from making new investments there.
“We cannot sit back and wait for the war in Ukraine to be over,” LaPointe said during the House debate. “We in Illinois must do everything we can … to make sure we do our part to call on Russia and end this war.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and, with that government’s permission, has at times used Belarus as a base for incursions from the north.
As of November 7, the war had resulted in an estimated 6,490 civilian deaths and another 9,972 civilian injuries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Millions more have been displaced from their homes or fled the country.
The bill requires, but does not specifically require, all state pension funds and pension schemes to “divest their holdings in companies based in Russia or Belarus,” and urges all Illinois municipalities to reconsider any town twinning with cities in Russia.
A spokesman for the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, the state’s largest pension fund, said in an email that the system’s total exposure to Russian assets is only about $4.27 million, or 0.007 percent of the fund’s total portfolio. It has no investments in Belarus.
Public colleges and universities would also be required to disclose to the Board of Higher Education any gratuity or other donation received from a source affiliated with a person or entity on the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of sanctioned entities, or by a company incorporated or having its principal place of business in Russia or Belarus.
The bill also requires the US State Department to resettle Ukrainian refugees in Illinois and empowers the Illinois Department of Human Services to adopt emergency rules to ensure the availability of refugee resettlement services.
In addition, the bill aims to prevent Russian interference in Illinois elections ahead of the 2024 election by establishing an elections and infrastructure integrity task force to prepare for and deter foreign interference in elections.
Finally, the bill aims to curb the flow of illicit funds from Russian and other sources into the Illinois real estate market by establishing a Real Estate Money Laundering Task Force to identify vulnerabilities in the real estate sector that facilitate money laundering.
The bill passed unanimously in the House of Representatives in April, just weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but failed to pass the Senate due to the tightened schedule at Illinois’ General Assembly last spring.
The Senate took the bill into the first week of veto session and made some minor changes before passing it 50-0 and sending it back to the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives accepted the Senate’s amendments on Wednesday, passing them 109-0.
Although no one opposed the law, Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said he would like similar legislation to require divestitures of companies linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
“Russia is a bad actor, no one will deny that, but China is even worse,” said Wilhour. “All I ask is that we hold on to China, which, along with many in our government and many in our corporations, has reaped the benefits of American workers for decades. And they are a much more powerful opponent. We have to hold them to the same standards that we do here with Russia.”
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