Legislation: Individual legislators and public interest groups have attempted on at least four occasions to pass divestment legislation and finally succeeded with the passage of SB 112 in 2011. The bill requires Utah State Retirement Investment Fund (URS) to divest from all entities sanctioned under the Federal Iran Sanctions Act of 1996; that is, all entities with over $20 million of assets in Iran’s petroleum sector. The state law also requires the Retirement Investment Fund to submit yearly reports of its scrutiny of companies and of divestment. The bill passed with sizable majorities in the House and Senate. In 2009, HB 211 required URS to begin making yearly reports on investments in scrutinized companies doing business in Iran, but made no divestment requirements.
HB 286, proposed in 2010, passed Utah’s state legislature 39-34 but died in the senate due to objections about the cost of reporting. In 2008, two legislators introduced divestiture legislation but both bills died on the floor of the House.
Effect: The state estimated enactment of this bill would result in additional administrative costs to the URS of $38,000 per year. Annual revenue losses to URS’s current portfolio of investments were estimated at $1,800,000 from 24 companies. These losses are significantly smaller than estimated the year prior in the fiscal note for HB 286, which had almost exactly the same text. It is unclear whether URS has complied with reporting obligations; this research team could not find any reports in Iran-related divestment in the public sphere.
Key actors: URS opposed the passage of divestiture legislation, with a public spokesperson noting in 2008 that such laws are “ineffective, costly, burdensome, inefficient, fraught with legal problems and (could well) violate the principles of federalism.” Then-State Representative Julie Fisher (R – Fruit Heights) sponsored both HB 211 and HB 286. Fisher was appointed executive director of the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts in 2011. SB 112 was signed into law after U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah) pushed for its enactment. State Senator Curt Bramble (R – Provo) sponsored SB 112, which was also supported by a coalition of Brigham Young students.