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N.J. public worker pensions pulled into Israeli boycott fight

Friday, May 6, 2016   (1 Comments)
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NJ.com 05/06/16

Pushing back against boycotts of Israeli products, a state Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill prohibiting the public pension system from investing in companies participating in that boycott. Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Jim Beach (D-Camden) offered the bill (S1923) as a counterweight to the Palestinian-led "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" movement. The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee approved the legislation 4-0 with one abstention. Under the bill, the state Division of Investments would be barred from investing public workers' $68.6 billion pension fund in these companies and dump any of these existing holdings within 18 months. 

"By banning investments in companies that participate in these punitive activities, we demonstrate our commitment to supporting and maintaining the strong relationship that has existed between New Jersey and Israel for years," Beach said in a statement. The bill leaves exceptions for companies that provide "humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through either a governmental or nongovernmental organization unless it is also engaging in prohibited boycotts." "By sending a message about where we stand on this issue, we are taking a stand," Weinberg told the committee. New Jersey has one of the largest Jewish populations in the U.S., and the state and Israel trade more than $1.3 billion in goods each year, according to the Senate majority office.

The Legislature has already prohibited the pension fund from investing in businesses with ties to Northern Ireland, Sudan and Iran. But Tom Byrne, chairman of the State Investment Council which oversees the public retirement fund, told NJ Advance Media the effect on the state's portfolio will depend on how broad or narrow this particular prohibition is. The Sudan ban prevented the fund from investing in an energy company or two, he said, "but we just deal with it." "The Legislature has passed prohibitions like this in the past. That's their job," Byrne said. "We abide by what the Legislature says... And if something becomes a material problem, we would at least provide that feedback."

Comments...

Laura E. Cohen, Harvey Cedars Borough says...
Posted Monday, May 16, 2016
Thank you Sens. Weinberg and Beach for supporting Israel!

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