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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Kaela Berg (DFL)

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Rep. Berg Votes to Approve Sanctions on 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 unanimously.

“The senseless violence perpetrated by Russia has become increasingly distressing, especially as there is a high degree of certainty that war crimes have been committed,” said Rep. Kaela Berg (DFL - Burnsville). “I am proud that Minnesota is standing with Ukraine and we are doing what we can to bring this war to an end.”

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.