Illinois House passes bill divesting public investment from Russia, supporting Ukrainian refugees

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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) — Members of the Illinois House united on Tuesday in support of legislation to hold Russia accountable for the ongoing war in Ukraine. House Bill 1293 is taking several steps to support Ukrainians whose lives have been disrupted by the Russian government. The bill was passed by 114 votes to 0.

The proposal asks Illinois to divest itself of Russian stocks and sovereign debt. This includes funds from the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System and money overseen by the Illinois State Board of Investment. Lead sponsor Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago) noted that the divestment also includes the Republic of Belarus.

The Illinois Department of Social 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 in Illinois real estate sectors. This part of the legislation deals with laundering through residential, industrial and commercial properties. LaPointe said it could be for luxury real estate in Chicago and some overlooked properties downstate.

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

The legislation also requires each institution of higher education in Illinois to disclose to the State Council on Higher Education any endowments or donations from sources associated with Russian individuals or companies subject to investigation.

“This bill by itself will not 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 of support for the Ukrainian people.”

Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) thanked LaPointe for his willingness to work with members on both sides of the aisle to make a stronger bill. Wheeler said lawmakers should be proud of the work to not only deal with the ongoing war, but also to plan ahead for potential cybersecurity issues in the future.

Representative Tim Butler also acknowledged the bipartisan effort to craft and pass the legislation. He noted that anyone can look at their laptop and see the devastation in the Ukrainian town of Bucha after the Russian invasion.

“The atrocities that have happened are just mind-boggling these days to see this sort of thing happening,” Butler said. “And I think we all have to look at that and say we have to do everything we can as elected officials to respond in a way that we should.”

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

“It’s the people’s job,” Ramirez said. “I want to affirm my support. And on behalf of the community I have the honor to serve, the Ukrainian village community of Chicago, Illinois, this bill is a good bill.

LaPointe said he saw people across the state supporting the Ukrainian people at rallies, marches and fundraisers. She said this plan uses legislative powers to provide compassionate and tangible support to Ukrainians.

“We have all witnessed the horrors that unfolded 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 will not stop Putin’s war, but it does ensure that Illinois collectively pulls every lever possible to support the Ukrainian people. I would like to congratulate Representative LaPointe for her hard work on this important bill.

House Bill 1293 is now heading to the Senate for further consideration. Senate Speaker Don Harmon signed on as the plan’s lead sponsor for his chamber.

Copyright 2022 WGEM. All rights reserved.

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