Bill to dump Russian holdings clears Legislature

APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War 3
Flames and smoke rise from a fire following a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022.
Felipe Dana/AP

Minnesota’s pension fund holdings in investments with ties to Russia and Belarus are closer to being unloaded after a unanimous vote Tuesday by the state Senate.

Senators gave final approval to a bill that would rid the state’s portfolio of those securities in response to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. The House passed the same legislation 126-0 last week. Gov. Tim Walz has previously pledged his support for the bill

The value of the targeted investments was relatively small to begin with – estimated last month at about $50 million – but has diminished to almost nothing in the month since much of the world isolated Russia economically.

DFL Sen. Kari Dziedzic, whose Minneapolis district is home to many people of Ukrainian descent, said legislators would still send a message with their action.

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“Please vote green to oppose Putin, to oppose this war, to oppose the genocide. Please vote green to stand with Ukraine and our Ukrainian Minnesotans,” she said in a speech prior to the 67-0 vote. “Please vote green for freedom and democracy.”

Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater and the bill’s sponsor, echoed the remark.

“This is the right thing to do because we cannot allow another single cent from our state to line the pockets of those who murder innocent victims,” Housely said. 

Once the bill is signed, the divestment process would be completed within 15 months. The bill also bars state agencies from entering into any contracts with companies headquartered in Russia or its main regional ally, Belarus.

The unified vote followed a verbal dustup on the Senate floor.

Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, said the use of economic might to fight injustice shouldn’t be limited to the war in Ukraine. He cited Yemen and ongoing conflicts in the Gaza Strip and other areas central to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

“This means that there will be many more opportunities for us to come together as a state to take action, and to stand by all people facing oppression, violence, bombing, invasion and occupation that they wish to have no part in,” Fateh said.

While Fateh never used the name of Israel in his remarks, his comment drew an immediate rebuke from DFL Sen. Ron Latz, who is Jewish.

“I just want to reject the false equivalencies that Senator Fateh drew between the Russian war against the Ukrainians and other conflicts in the world,” Latz said.