SACRAMENTO, CA – On August 31, the California State Assembly adopted AB 1597, the Divestment from Turkish Bonds Act, sending the bill to the Governor’s desk. The State Assembly action follows passage of the legislation by the California State Senate on August 29 by a vote of 36-0 with 4 abstentions, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).
“I am humbled and grateful for my colleagues in the Legislature for joining with me to fight for justice for the 1.5 million Armenian souls who perished in the (Armenian) Genocide,” stated California State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-46), the author of the bill.
“The Armenian Assembly salutes California State Assemblymember Nazarian for his foresight in introducing this pivotal piece of legislation, and for his leadership throughout the past two years in shepherding the bill in both legislative chambers. We also thank California State Senators and AB 1597 co-authors, Scott Wilk (R-21) and Anthony Portantino (D-25), for their advocacy of this bill throughout the Senate committee process and on the State Senate floor,” stated Armenian Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan.
Armenian Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan and Armenian Assembly activists from California’s Central Valley, Deacon Daniel Aydenian and Helvina Grikoryan, were in the State Capitol on August 27 to educate State Senators on the economic and moral merits of the bill, prior to this week’s Senate floor vote. The Armenian Assembly delegation was pleased to hold a meeting with CA State Senate Minority Leader, Patricia Bates (R-36), a long-time friend of Armenian Americans in California’s Orange County, on the significance of bipartisan support for AB 1597. In June 2018, Toumajan delivered testimony in favor of AB 1597 during a hearing before Members of the California State Senate Standing Committee on Public Employment and Retirement (CalPERS), prior to that committee’s favorable 4-0 vote.
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, and, as amended by the State Senate, “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.
Earlier this month, while referring to the impact of the potential bicameral passage of AB 1597, Assemblymember Nazarian stated: “California is sending a clear message to Turkey to stop their deceitful campaign of genocide denial.”
The Armenian Assembly has consistently supported divestment legislation and recalls its swift approval by the State Assembly’s Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee in April 2017, as well as its overwhelming approval (67-0) on the floor of the California State Assembly in June 2017.
If 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 George 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.
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 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.