Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New Jersey Passes Iran Divestment Legislation, Joining the '50 Foreign Policies' Movement

On Monday, December 17, the New Jersey state Senate voted 34-0 to pass divestment legislation that prohibits state pension money from being invested in companies doing business in Iran. The Assembly voted 78-1 in June to approve the measure. The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine for his signature. Both Florida and California passed similar legislation earlier this year and New Jersey is now the third state to pass such legislation.

New Jersey's state pension fund is the ninth largest in the U.S. and is thought to be worth about $80 billion, though it is unclear how much is invested in companies doing business in Iran. The legislation requires the state to hire an independent research firm specializing in global securities to identify such investments.

I like to call this the “50 Foreign Policies Movement.” Several other states are being pressed by lobbies to take up similar legislation. I’ve been told by folks who work closely with State legislators that even the Human Rights Campaign is on board with Iran state divestment now and their reasoning is that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is homophobic.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked the state's pension funds to divest, though they didn't meet his deadline and legislation involving divestment from Iran died in the Legislature. Meanwhile, Michigan's House has approved divestiture legislation and the Senate announced separate measures, though none have advanced to the governor's desk.

On July 31, 2007, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2347, The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, by a vote of 408-6, despite opposition from the Secretaries of State and Treasury. The bill will establish a federal list of companies that have direct investments in Iran’s energy sector and remove specific legal barriers to enable mutual fund and corporate pension fund managers to cut ties with these listed companies if they choose to do so. The bill also provides federal authority for state and local governments that choose to divest their public pension funds and calls on the U.S. government to list companies with more than $20 million invested in Iran's energy sector. Senator Barack Obama introduced the bill in the Senate where it is awaiting approval.

Even the Bush administration opposes State divestment. Click here for arguments against divestment and quotes from Bush administration officials.

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