SACRAMENTO, CA – As part of its efforts to educate Members of the California State Legislature on priority issues of concern to Armenian Americans in California, the Armenian Assembly of America is pleased to have been invited by State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-CA-46) to deliver testimony on the merits of Assembly Bill (AB) 1597, the landmark Divestment from Turkish Bonds Act, during a hearing this week before Members of the California State Senate Standing Committee on Public Employment and Retirement (PERS).
The PERS Committee voted 4-0, with one abstention, in favor of AB 1597. The bill was subsequently considered by the California State Senate Judiciary Committee, whose Members approved the legislation 5-0, with two abstentions. The bill has now been referred to the California State Senate Appropriations Committee.
Authored by Assemblymember Nazarian, AB 1597 requires the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) and California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to liquidate all investments issued, owned, controlled, or managed by the government of Turkey “upon passage of a federal law imposing sanctions on Turkey for failure to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.” According to current data, CalPERS has investment holdings in bonds directly issued by the Republic of Turkey in excess of $700 million, while CalSTRS has similar holdings in Turkish government-issued bonds amounting to approximately $70 million.
The Armenian Assembly has supported this initiative since the beginning, and recalls its swift approval by the State Assembly’s Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee last June as well as its overwhelming approval (67-0) on the floor of the California State Assembly.
In anticipation of future hearings in various committees of the California State Senate, representatives of the Armenian Assembly held critical in-district meetings throughout this month with key Members of the California State Senate, including the offices of State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-CA-39), State Senator Connie Leyva (D-CA-20), and State Senator Mike Morrell (R-CA-23).
If approved by the bi-cameral state legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, the bill will continue California’s storied history of divesting from countries that violate human rights. Garnering the gratitude of civil rights champion Nelson Mandela, then-Governor Deukmejian spearheaded the California State Legislature’s successful efforts in divesting from South Africa for the latter’s horrific apartheid policy, while also inspiring the Regents of the University of California to follow suit. Subsequent efforts at divestment by the California State Legislature include divesting from Sudan for committing genocide in Darfur, as well as divesting from Iran for committing human rights violations and for its state sponsorship of international terrorism.
“The Armenian Assembly commends Assemblymember Nazarian and his leadership in spearheading AB 1597 in the State Assembly in 2017, and presenting a strong case for its passage by the State Senate this year. We also extend our appreciation to California State Senators Leyva, Morrell, and Anthony Portantino (D-CA-25) for their powerful remarks and critically important votes in favor of the legislation during the PERS Committee hearing,” stated Armenian Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.