Senator Johnson Announces Iranian Divestment Legislation

Craig M. Johnson

June 12, 2007

GREAT NECK, N.Y. -- Senator Craig M. Johnson today announced the introduction of important legislation that will enable New York state to speak with its wallet against the extremist regime that currently rules Iran.

The bill, the Iranian Economic Divestment Act of 2007, (S5913), empowers the State Comptroller to refrain from investing state pension funds in companies that conduct business with Iran. This legislation would also give the comptroller the power to withdraw current state investments in these companies.

Iran's continued sponsorship of terrorist organizations; pursuit of a nuclear program; inhumane treatment of dissidents; and the recent proclamation by its president that Israel should be 'wiped off the map,' have shown that Iran remains a destabilizing force in the Middle East.

The United States has long-standing sanctions against Iran, but "foreign companies continue to invest in this rouge state," Johnson, (D-Port Washington), said.

"This is a government that thrives on threatening the stability of its neighbors and the security of the world," Johnson said. "With this bill, the Comptroller would be able to use his position as the sole trustee of the $154 billion State Pension Fund to make sure that none of our money funds these efforts."

"Through this socially responsible investing, New York will perhaps be able to provide the pressure needed to foster some real reforms in Iran," he continued.

Johnson announced this legislation during an event at the Firefighters Park in Great Neck that was attended by members of the Iranian Society for Freedom, Peace and Justice, many of whom fled Iran after the current theocratic government took power in 1979.

It was members of this group, several of whom live within the 7th Senate District, who brought the need for this legislation to Senator Johnson's attention.

Also standing with Senator Johnson was Assemblyman Charles D. Lavine, (D-Glen Cove), who is sponsoring the bill in his legislative house.

"This legislative action sends a direct message to the present government in Iran that we have grave concerns over that nation's flagrant disregard for international good will, as well as its denial of the fundamental rights of its people," Lavine said.

"Iran's leaders need to better comprehend that their subsidizing of terrorists, their stated threats against Israel, their torture of dissidents and the harassment and jailing of American citizens, such as the scholar Haleh Esfandiari and the urban planner Kian Tajbakhsh , on fraudulent espionage charges are very much on the mind of America's citizens," he continued. "With many billions of American pension fund dollars invested in European corporations that do business with Iran's government, this is certainly an opportune moment to make sure that the resolve of New Yorkers and all Americans is made clearly known."

New York State has previously adopted proposals that regulated investment in companies that did business in Northern Ireland and with South Africa's Apartheid government.

Last month, Senator Johnson joined his colleagues in passing a similar bill that allowed New York state to divest from companies with ties to the Sudan, a country that sponsors terrorism and perpetuates genocide in Darfur.

Florida has already adopted a law to divest its pension funds from Iran. Lawmakers in California, Missouri, Maryland, Massachusetts, Georgia and Ohio are pursuing their own legislation on this issue.

The 7th Senate District encompasses the entire Town of North Hempstead. It also includes the communities of Elmont, Floral Park, South Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Stewart Manor, Bellerose, Bellerose Terrace, and parts of Franklin Square and Hicksville.