Illinois Democrats plan to divest from Russian debt

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and his fellow Democrats leading the General Assembly have pledged to pass legislation to penalize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

A House Democrat last week outlined a plan to divest from Russian debt, welcome Ukrainian refugees to Illinois and develop a method to detect Russian money laundering in local real estate.

“This is not a situation where we can sit back and ignore what’s going on,” Chicago Democratic Rep. Lindsey LaPointe said of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion of her neighbor. . “Now is the time for us to do what we can here in Illinois.”


Pritzker on Feb. 28 called on state employee pension systems to review their portfolios for divestment opportunities.

On Friday, he released a joint statement with Senate Speaker Don Harmon of Oak Park and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside welcoming the General Assembly’s action.

“As Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine escalates, it threatens everyone in the world. We are united in our belief that Putin must be stopped,” the statement read. “Working together, our offices will advance legislation to remove all Russian companies from Illinois pension assets and prohibit any contracts with Russian-based companies.”

The leaders also pledged aid for refugees, said they hoped negotiations could resolve the dispute, and said “Illinois must stand firm for democracy and stand with the brave men and women of Ukraine.”

In response to Pritzker’s Feb. 28 letter, the state’s largest retirement account, the Teachers Retirement System, representing about 225,000 active and retired instructors, asked its roughly 150 asset managers to review the investments for ties with Russia, spokesman Dave Urbanek said. It can be a complex process, especially when the investments are part of mixed funds, Urbanek said.

LaPointe’s proposal would require the divestment of “Russian equities and sovereign debt,” as well as those of Russian ally Belarus. He names the Illinois State Teachers’ Retirement System and Board of Investment and urges non-state-controlled public systems, such as the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, to do the same . Many states and other government agencies have taken similar steps to end all interaction with Russia.

The legislation would also give the Illinois Department of Social Services the authority to create a Ukrainian Refugee Resettlement Program that would provide health care, mental health services and English-language assistance to Ukrainians with Temporary Protected Status or of refugee. The United Nations reports that 3.5 million people have left Ukraine since the February 24 invasion.

The Illinois Refugee Resettlement Program, which began in 1975, has helped more than 129,000 refugees from about 86 countries start a new life here, according to state records. Its budget is largely in federal dollars. LaPointe said his bill had no additional funding. Last month, Deputy House Republican Leader Tom Demmer of Dixon outlined a plan that would add $20 million in public funds to expand the program to those fleeing Ukraine.

Finally, LaPointe’s plan would create a “real estate money laundering task force” that would assess the likelihood of residential, industrial and commercial real estate sectors across the state attracting Russian money. illicit, including luxury real estate in Chicago.

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LaPointe’s invoice is HB1293.

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