Seeking to tighten the financial squeeze on Russia over its war against Ukraine, governors and lawmakers in numerous U.S. states were taking actions today to pull state investments from Russian companies while encouraging private entities to do the same.
The effect of sanctions by U.S. states often pales in comparison to national ones, but state officials said they wanted to show solidarity with Ukraine and do what they could to build upon the penalties imposed on Russia by the U.S. government and other Western nations.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, got a bipartisan standing ovation today when he told representatives he would seek to have the state’s retirement funds quickly divested from any Russian assets.
“I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t want one penny of Georgians’ money going to subsidize Vladimir Putin,” Ralston said. “While our role in international affairs is limited, we make clear we stand with those who want to live in peace.”
Some actions have been largely symbolic. The governors of Arizona, Pennsylvania and Tennessee ordered their capitols lit with the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s flag. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, issued a joint statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as co-chairs of the presidentially appointed Council of Governors.
Other state actions have potential teeth.
The Indiana House today passed legislation that would block Russian-controlled businesses and nonprofits from acquiring property in Indiana for one year. It now goes to the Senate.
“Indiana will not be a safe haven for ill-gotten Russian funds, nor for its oligarchs trying to find financial shelter in the wake of Putin’s unconscionable invasion of Ukraine,” Democratic state Rep. Ryan Dvorak said while proposing the amendment last week.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order Sunday forbidding her state from doing business with Russia. She ordered state agencies to divest money and assets from companies or institutions aiding Russia in its war against Ukraine. The Democratic governor also said New York would welcome Ukrainian refugees, noting that New York already is home to the largest Ukrainian population in the U.S.
Pennsylvania lawmakers said today they will file legislation requiring state pension funds to pull investments connected to the Russian government and its critical supporters. The state Treasury Department also has begun divesting its minimal holdings in Russian-based companies.
In a memo to fellow senators, Democratic state Sen. Sharif Street said Pennsylvania “must wield our economic power to ensure that Russia faces grave consequences for their flagrant violations of international law and human cooperation.”
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican seeking co-sponsors for the legislation, said state lawmakers “have a moral obligation to ensure that our public fund investments are not inadvertently supporting those who are engaging in an unprovoked invasion of their democratically elected neighbors.”
Arkansas lawmakers have filed proposals authorizing banks in the state to freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs and to require a boycott of Russian-made goods. A bipartisan group of California lawmakers said today they also will introduce legislation to divest public money from Russian state entities.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, has banned state agencies from doing business with Russian state-owned firms and their subcontractors. Colorado’s $61 billion state pension fund is pulling $8 million from a Russian state-owned bank identified in federal sanctions.
Governors in Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington also have ordered a review of whether any state money is going to Russian companies or investments supporting the Russian government. A North Dakota investment board was due to meet later this week to discuss its investments in Russia.
“If our state can put one brick in the wall around Putin, it will be a good thing, and we intend to do all that we can in this regard,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat.
Two prominent Republican governors, Florida’s Ron DeSantis and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, who are widely seen as angling for a White House bid, mostly took aim at President Joe Biden rather than issue executive orders targeting Russia. They criticized his energy policies and said that had made it difficult to slap sanctions on Russia’s exports of oil and gas.
Other governors are seeking to sever good-will relationships between their home states and those in Russia.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan announced today that he’s dissolving Maryland’s decades-old sister-state relationship with Russia’s Leningrad region after the invasion of Ukraine. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, asked the cities of Norfolk and Roanoke to end their sister city partnerships with Russian cities. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, called for an end to its sister state relationship with Stavrapol Krai, Russia, and a strengthening of its sister state relationship with Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine.
Several states have expressed a willingness to provide housing to Ukranian refugees. The Washington state House and Senate each have added amendments to their budget proposals setting aside $19 million to provide services and temporary housing to refugees who come from Ukraine.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, posted on Twitter over the weekend that he has asked restaurants and retailers “ to voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves.”
Officials in Alabama, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia — all states that control the sale of alcohol — have directed Russian-sourced alcohol to be removed from store shelves.
“Utah stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will not support Russian enterprises, no matter how small the exchange,” Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said.