State Rep. Josh Shapiro (D-153) urged Jewish community officials to support his Terror Free Investment Act, which would mandate several state pension funds to divest from any company that does business with the five nations labeled by the U.S. State Department as sponsors of terror: Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan and Cuba.
The Associated Press reported over the weekend that the State Department is considering adding the East African nation of Eritrea to the list for backing radical Islamic groups in Somalia.
In an Aug. 15 briefing at the Jewish Community Services Building in Center City, Shapiro urged Jewish community members to call the offices of their own state representative, as well as those of the House Majority Leader and House Speaker, in an effort to get the bill, which passed out of committee last month, on the House calendar.
One potential hurdle is that there may be a legislative push to include an amendment that would force Pennsylvania to reimburse the pension funds if divestment results in fiscal loses.
"I believe I can beat that amendment," said Shapiro. "I'm going to be working with a handful of representatives who have objections from a purely investment standpoint."
The affected pension funds invest a total of $115.4 billion, with at least $40 billion invested in foreign companies. Some groups estimate that $6.5 billion of that is invested in companies doing business with state sponsors of terror, notably Iran.
Shapiro said that he voted in favor of a divestment bill focusing solely on Sudan that passed the House and awaits deliberation in the Senate. He predicted that the Sudan bill will get rolled into his.
One thing the bill doesn't do is tell fund managers which companies should be targeted; fund managers would have to do their own research. A number of private companies produce lists of companies, as does the Securities and Exchange Commission, although some say the SEC list is flawed.
During the meeting, Robin Schatz, director of government affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said the agency is looking into how to ensure that all of its investments are terror free.