SACRAMENTO—A bill allowing local agencies to divest from Turkey overwhelmingly passed the California State Senate on Monday, with a vote of 35-0. Senate Bill 457, introduced by Senator Anthony J. Portantino and Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk requires the Public Employees’ Retirement System and the State Teachers’ Retirement System Boards of Administration to allow school districts and cities to opt out of investment vehicles issued or owned by the Republic of Turkey.
“SB 457 would impose much needed economic consequences on a regime that continues to engage in an ongoing campaign of genocide denial,” stated Senator Portantino.
“Public employees in my district who are members of CalSTRS and CalPERS are descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors and had to relive the intergenerational trauma during the recent Artsakh war, in which Turkey was heavily involved. I believe divesting from Turkey sends a strong message to the world that California does not do business with genocidal regimes and countries with a history of civil and human rights abuses. It is consistent with our basic humanitarian principles,” added Portantino.
The State of California has a long history of divesting from countries that violate human rights. In 1986, Governor George Deukmejian condemned South Africa’s apartheid policy by signing California’s divestiture law, aimed at pressuring the government to end its system of racial segregation. In 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a Sudan divestment bill due to the ongoing genocide in the Darfur. And the University of California system successfully divested from Turkey in 2017.
In addition to its ongoing campaign of denial of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey provided strong military support to Azerbaijan in the 2020 Artsakh war, transported thousands of mercenaries from Syria to support Azerbaijan against Armenian citizens, and continues to support Azerbaijan’s refusal to return prisoners of war to Armenia. Furthermore, Turkey withdrew from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention.
“SB 457 sends a message to the Turkish government that silence is not an option and until the Turkish government acknowledges its shameful history, California will stand in solidarity with our Armenian brothers and sisters,” said Wilk. “I look forward to the day when this important bill becomes law.”
Senator Portantino drafted SB 457 after discussing with Glendale City Councilmember Ardy Kassakhian the initiative he brought forth to the Glendale City Council to divest investment dollars from the Republic of Turkey.
“I commend the Senate for getting this done,” stated Councilmember Kassakhian. “Many efforts are being made towards this goal but with other versions of divestment facing challenges this year, the passage of SB 457 is even more significant and is a testament to the leadership of Senators Wilk and Portantino.”