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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Rep. Youakim votes to approve Minnesota sanctions against Russia

Thursday, March 24, 2022

St. Paul, MN - In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, today the Minnesota House passed broadly bipartisan legislation divesting Minnesota’s state pensions of Russian and Belarusian assets, and codifying Governor Walz’s Executive Order barring Minnesota from contracting with Russian companies. The bill passed on a vote of 126-0.

“I continue to think of our friends in Hopkins’ sister city of Boryspil, Ukraine,” said Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins), who voted in favor of the legislation. “Their hunger for a free democracy was inspirational when they visited here over a decade ago. Advancing this legislation is the least we can do to show our support for the Ukrainians in their pursuit of freedom and peace.” 

The legislation requires Minnesota, primarily the State Board of Investment (SBI), to divest of its direct holdings of Russian and Belarusian assets. Lawmakers included Belarus in the legislation due to its government’s complicity in the Russian invasion. As of March 11, the value of SBI’s publicly traded assets in Russia and Belarus was $14 million. Since that time, due to the current volatility of these assets, it’s estimated the values have dropped below $10 million.

The bill mainly affects the state pension funds and other state-owned investment products that SBI administers as well. This requirement to divest does not apply to indirect holdings in investment funds, nor does it affect local or county governments except to the extent that they allow SBI to manage their investments. The action against Russia and Belarus is similar to prior sanctions Minnesota has set against Iranian and Sudanese interests. 

Under the bill, SBI must liquidate 50% of prohibited assets within nine months of the effective date, with 100% liquidated within 15 months. The bill also regulates state agency contracts with Russia and Belarus as well as with Russian and Belarusian interests. The bill requires state agencies to review existing contracts to determine which are with Russian and Belarusian entities, terminate those contracts to the extent practicable, and refrain from entering into new contracts with Russian and Belarusian entities. 

Video recording of today’s floor debate can be found on the House Public Information YouTube channel