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Governors Spotlight: Russian Sanctions, Transgender Sports Ban, COVID Relief Checks & More

March 04, 2022

Govs Push Russian Sanctions

The outrage from world leaders at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has filtered down to state governors as well.

According to Stateline, a publication of the Pew Charitable Trusts, governors in at least 12 states have ordered the removal of Russian-made liquors and other products from retail shelves, and at least 11 have moved to end all ties with Russian companies. Governors in at least seven states — California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia — have asked their pension funds to divest from holdings in Russia.

Whether any of these efforts do much to impede Russia’s aggression or damage its economy is yet to be seen. Most of the states have minimal to no investments in Russian companies.

There are also questions of legality, as state sanctions could conflict with those imposed by the federal government, which has constitutional authority over foreign policy matters.

Not all divestment proposals are the same, either.

In a statement, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) noted the value of the state’s three largest pension funds – the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and University of California retirement system – with combined assets of $970 billion, “equivalent to 60 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product last year.”

Which is true, but Newsom also notes only $1.5 billion of it is invested in Russian markets. And as those markets have seen a steep decline in recent days, any sell offs would come at a steep loss. So rather than order an immediate divestment, Newsom has asked the funds to “halt the flow of money from the state to Russia, ban the purchase of Russian debt and conduct an assessment to ensure their actions protect the interests of current and future retirees.” 

Even if state efforts won’t have a significant impact on Russia’s behavior, lawmakers and governors have made clear they believe there is a moral imperative for showing solidarity with Ukraine at what appears to be a critical juncture of history.

“Russia’s ruthless attack on a sovereign nation is an egregious violation of human rights,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R), said in a statement. “Utah stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will not support Russian enterprises, no matter how small the exchange.”

Cox later acknowledged that “rallying at the Capitol and removing Russian vodka from the shelves are mostly symbolic gestures,” but added “make no mistake, in times of war and evil, symbols absolutely matter. (STATELINE, LOS ANGELES TIMES, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, UTAH GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

IA Gov Signs Transgender Sports Ban

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a measure this week (HF 2416) that bars transgender women and girls from participating on a sports team that corresponds with their gender identity. The measure goes into effect immediately. Iowa is at least the 11th Republican-controlled state to adopt such a ban in the last few years. (DES MOINES REGISTER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT)

CA Gov Proposes Mental Health Court to Address Homelessness

Saying “There’s no compassion stepping over people in the streets and sidewalks,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has proposed a plan to require all Golden State counties to establish a mental health branch in civil court. The plan would also include compelling some people suffering from severe mental health or addiction issues into care or face the possibility of arrest or being held in psychiatric programs involuntarily. The program must be approved by lawmakers. (ASSOCIATED PRESS, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

ME Gov Boosts COVID Relief Checks

Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) said she will up her proposal for inflation relief checks by $250 after a state commission estimated the Pine Tree State will see $411.6 million more in revenues during the current two-year budget period than originally estimated. The checks, now slated to be $750, should go out to about 800,000 Mainers in June. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS)

IN Gov. Endorses Tax Cuts

Saying tax revenues are now sufficient to overcome his earlier reluctance, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) proposed major cuts to the state’s income and business taxes. Holcomb’s proposal would reduce the income tax rate from 3.23 percent down to 2.9 percent. The governor also endorsed cuts made to property taxes paid on business equipment and utility company taxes. His proposal is slightly different than a plan put together by House Republicans. The Senate has not yet announced support for either plan. (WLFI [WEST LAFAYETTE])

--Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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