Illinois House passes bill divesting state investments from Russia, supporting Ukrainian refugees

The Illinois House passed legislation Tuesday calling for divestment of state assets from Russia.
The Illinois House passed legislation Tuesday calling for divestment of state assets from Russia.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 11:05 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Members of the Illinois House stood together Tuesday in support of legislation to hold Russia accountable for the ongoing war in Ukraine. House Bill 1293 takes several actions to support Ukrainians who had their lives upended by the Russian government. The bill passed on a 114-0 vote.

The proposal calls for Illinois to divest from Russian stocks and sovereign debt. That includes funds in the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System and money the Illinois State Board of Investment oversees. Lead sponsor Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago) noted that the divestment also includes the Republic of Belarus.

The Illinois Department of Human Services is also tasked with creating emergency rules to implement a resettlement program for Ukrainian refugees. Lawmakers hope this can lead to health care, mental health services, and English language assistance once refugees arrive in Illinois.

This bill could also create a new task force to investigate Russian money laundering within real estate sectors in Illinois. That portion of the legislation addresses laundering through residential, industrial, and commercial properties. LaPointe said this could look into luxury real estate in Chicago and some properties that are overlooked downstate.

House Bill 1293 also creates a new task force to evaluate and make recommendations to prepare for and prevent possible foreign interference in the 2024 elections. The group could also help prevent future cyberattacks on state infrastructure. That task force would prioritize the security of Illinoisans and cooperation with law enforcement to protect national sovereignty.

The legislation also requires every Illinois institution of higher education to disclose to the State Board of Higher Education any endowment or donations from sources associated with Russian individuals or companies under investigation.

“This bill in itself is not going to end the war in Ukraine,” LaPointe said. “But it’s a way to harness our collective power and do everything we can in Illinois to make a statement to support Ukrainian people.”

Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) thanked LaPointe for her willingness to collaborate with members from both sides of the aisle to make a stronger bill. Wheeler said lawmakers should be proud of the work to not only address the ongoing war but also plan ahead for possible problems with cybersecurity in the future.

Rep. Tim Butler also recognized the bipartisan effort to craft and pass the legislation. He noted that everyone can look at their laptops and see the devastation in the Ukrainian city of Bucha after the Russian invasion.

“The atrocities that have happened are just mind-numbing in this day and age to just see that that kind of thing happens,” Butler said. “And I think all of us have to look at that and say we need to do whatever we can as elected officials to respond in a way that we should.”

Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago) said she was glad to stand alongside LaPointe as a chief co-sponsor of the plan to hold Vladimir Putin accountable. Ramirez was the sponsor of a similar resolution in the House calling for action to divest from Russia and help Ukrainians.

“This is the work of the people,” said Ramirez. “I want to affirm my support. And on behalf of the community that I get the honor to serve, the Ukrainian village community in Chicago, Illinois, this bill is a good bill.”

LaPointe said she has seen people across the state supporting the people of Ukraine during rallies, marches, and fundraisers. She said this plan uses legislative powers to provide compassionate and tangible support to Ukrainians.

“We’ve all witnessed the horrors taking place in Ukraine at the hands of Vladimir Putin, and his actions continue to threaten democracy around the world,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch. “What the Illinois House passed today won’t stop Putin’s war, but it ensures Illinois is collectively pulling every lever possible to support the Ukrainian people. I want to congratulate Representative LaPointe for her hard work on this consequential piece of legislation.”

House Bill 1293 now heads to the Senate for further consideration. Senate President Don Harmon has signed on as the chief sponsor of the plan for his chamber.

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