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House Passes Divestment Bill

July 12, 2007 By:
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As Harrisburg was embroiled in a budget standoff that led to a partial shutdown of state government, the legislature apparently still went about its business. On June 8, the House managed to pass the Sudan Divestment Act, sponsored by State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-District 182).

House Bill 1140 calls for state pension funds to divest from a handful of companies that currently do business with Sudan. Its motive is to attempt to hamper that government's ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of the country.

The measure passed 194-3, but it did pick up an amendment -- one that would mandate the state to reimburse the pension funds if the divestment led to a net loss.

Josephs said that she hoped this amendment would not become part of the final law.

It's not clear how soon the Senate will take up debate on the House bill.

The bill's passage, however, wasn't the only news on the divestment front.

On June 29, the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee approved three bills introduced by State Rep. Josh Shapiro (D-District 202) that call for several state pension funds to divest from companies doing business with Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan and Cuba.

That sets the stage for the bill to be considered by the entire House.

Initially, Josephs, who chairs the state government committee, said that she planned to impede Shapiro's bill in order to help her own, far narrower measure to pass.

The two lawmakers have differed over the idea -- and, as the bills have proved, the actual means -- of whether or not the commonwealth should take a broad or narrower approach to divestment.

But last week, in a seeming reversal, Josephs said that she had only planned to hold up Shapiro's bill until her own passed out of committee, which it did the week beforehand.

For his part, Shapiro acknowledged that he and Josephs were indeed able to reach an agreement.

Rather amicably, he said that he was "pleased to have her support on my legislation."

He added that he expected to meet with representatives of the various pension funds affected by the bill to discuss any objections, although he would not go into specifics.

Stated Shapiro: "This is very important to me; this is one of my top priorities in the House."

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