Illinois Senate passes bill cutting financial ties, aid to Russia

Patrick Keck
State Journal-Register
Ace Sign Co. of Springfield employee Ben Poteet hangs a 'Peace for Ukraine" banner on a light pole at the corner of South Fifth Street and East Washington Street on Tuesday April 19, 2022. [Thomas J. Turney/ The State Journal-Register]

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been ongoing for nearly 10 months in a conflict that has displaced millions from their homes and taken tens of thousands of lives.

Back in Springfield, legislators took action Wednesday on a bill that would effectively cut all financial ties between Illinois and Russia. The Illinois Senate gave House Bill 1293, also known as the Russian Divestment Act, its third reading and passed it unanimously 50-0 with nine not voting.

The bill, sponsored by local Reps. Tim Butler and Sandy Hamilton among others, now heads back to the House for final action. Attempts to contact the Illinois House Republicans to request comment from Butler and Hamilton went unanswered.

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It previously passed the House in April 2022 with 114 voting in favor and zero against.

“The Illinois Senate joins the international community in denouncing Russian’s ongoing, unconscionable acts of aggression against the Ukrainian people,” said state Senate President Don Harmon in a released statement.

Passage of the bill would require the state to divest from existing investments in Russian banks and companies and block any further investment in the country. Existing law already prevents Illinois from investing in companies that do business with Iran and Sudan in addition to companies boycotting Israel, according to the Illinois Investment Policy Board.

State Treasurer Michael Frerichs

According to state Treasurer Michael Frerichs, the office has no funds invested in Russia and he has "led a bipartisan effort at the national level to persuade all levels of government as well as the private sector to divest investments in Russian companies."

"Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked, immoral, and unjustified invasion of neighboring Ukraine must not stand. The United States, and we in Illinois, must not tolerate Putin’s war on a sovereign nation," he said in a released statement. "He must be stopped immediately and punished for the pain and suffering he is inflicting upon the Ukrainian people, as well as his own citizens in Russia. We must do our part to ensure this aggression is repelled and is never allowed to occur again."

The Illinois State Board of Investment oversees three of the state's retirement services — State Employees’ Retirement System, the General Assembly Retirement System, and the Judges’ Retirement System — which has a small amount invested in companies based in Russia.

ISBI, in an email, said its exposure to these companies is "well under 0.05% of our portfolio" and will adhere to the provisions of the bill if and when it passes.

Among other requirements from the bill, state colleges and universities must disclose endowments and donations provided by Russian companies. The Illinois State Police will also investigate property-related crimes involving individuals or companies sanctioned in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Task forces will be created to look into any potential real estate vulnerabilities that may indicate Russian money laundering or attacks on election security.

Sister-city relationships between Illinois cities and Russian cities will also be encouraged to be revoked. The bill makes specific mention of Chicago's relationship with Moscow and the partnership between Bloomington and Normal and Vladimir, Russia.The bill would head to the desk of Gov. JB Pritzker if the House approves the final version of HB 1293. It is unknown whether Pritzker would sign the act into law.

The Democratic governor denounced the Russian invasion back in February, one day after it began a series of airstrikes on Ukrainian territory. A great-grandson of a Ukrainian refugee, Pritzker said during a campaign event on Feb. 25 that Illinois and America need to stand with Ukraine.

He later attended a rally in Chicago with Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton to voice his support of Ukraine.

"My own family hails from Kyiv, Ukraine. But whether you come from Ukraine, your family has descendants from Ukraine, or your family is from anywhere else in the world, today we are ALL Ukrainian," the governor tweeted. "Proud to join Chicago in protesting the Russian invasion of a sovereign nation."

The bill follows suit with fellow Midwestern states like Ohio and Indiana that announced sanctions against Russia earlier this year.

Contact Patrick Keck: 312-549-9340, pkeck@gannett.com, twitter.com/@pkeckreporter