Divestment legislation: The Georgia General Assembly passed the Protecting Georgia’s Investment Act (SB451), amending Article 7 of Chapter 20 of Title 47 of the Georgia Code, relating to the Public Retirement Systems Investment Authority Law. (1) Three senators voted against it. (2) The bill provides for the creation of a “scrutinized companies” list, including businesses that have made investments in excess of $20 million in Iran’s petroleum sector. (3) Public funds must provide written notice to companies of their inclusion on the list, and if no “substantial action” is taken for 90 days following the notice, the funds must divest all holdings from the company in question. If the company does take substantial action, it will remain on the list pending completion of the removal of all business activities, but it will not be subject to divestment. The retirement system will not be held liable for “good faith omissions.” (4) The amendment to the Code expired on July 1, 2015.
The Senate introduced legislation earlier this year to renew the amendment, with further qualifications increasing the number of businesses earmarked as “scrutinized companies.” SB246 would expand the definition to include any company engaged in contracts of any kind with the governments of Iran, Syria, Cuba, and Sudan; any company with any revenues or assets in the energy and power production sectors of those nations; any company “complicit in the Darfur genocide”; and any company supplying military equipment to those nations barring the presence of measures to avoid that equipment being used to “facilitate offensive military actions.” (5) The $20 million threshold for investments appears nowhere in SB246.
The bill was forwarded for an actuarial study on May 7, 2015. (6)
Key actors: Sponsors of SB246 are Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta), Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-White), and Sen. Mike Crane (R-Newnan).
Constitutional Amendment legislation: Senate Resolution 725 was introduced on January 20, 2016. The bill proposes an amendment to Article III, Section X of the Georgia Constitution, providing for prohibition of “investment in state sponsors of terror.” (7) The restriction applies to all public pension funds, and there is no exception for smaller investments. SR725 is currently being considered by the Senate Retirement Committee. (8) If it passes the General Assembly, the proposed amendment would then proceed to a public referendum in November.