The Baker administration is beginning to outline an executive order that could change how the Massachusetts state government interacts with Russian businesses, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday.
The news follows a handful of governors taking action over the weekend to stop doing business with Russian companies or to stop promoting Russian products.
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, the governors of New York and New Hampshire have moved to sever or reduce ties between their states and Vladimir Putin’s regime.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Sunday signed an executive order barring the Empire State from doing business with Russian entities, and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu on Saturday ordered his state’s liquor stores to remove Russian spirits from their shelves.
After the sale of Russian-made alcohol was banned in New Hampshire state liquor stores, a Massachusetts lawmaker introduced a bill that would block the purchase of Russian products in the state of the Bay.
“We are currently reviewing what an executive order might look like regarding companies doing business with the Commonwealth that must be of Russian origin,” Baker said Monday after a meeting with Senate Speaker Karen Spilka and Speaker of the Senate. Chamber, Ron Mariano. “I know I speak for the Lieutenant Governor and the President, as well as the President of the Senate, when I say that I share the concern about the closure of a Russian immigrant family who has been here in Massachusetts for years and runs a company that might have some sort of Russian accent.”
The governor added, “But we are absolutely looking at our contracts and trying to determine if, in fact, we have any opportunities or possibilities associated with these contracts involving Russian companies.”
Baker did not respond directly when asked if any vendors or companies that could be affected by such an order had been identified, saying his administration “just started going through” the list of about 100,000. entities that do business with the state.
Baker also said on Monday that he was ready to do “everything we can” to help Ukrainian refugees settle in Massachusetts.
“This is not the first time the Ukrainian people have dealt with Russia and the Soviet Union, and it is an extremely tough and patriotic community,” the governor said. “And if we have the opportunity here to help some of those who have been displaced, we will do whatever we can…And I’m sure we have a lot of support from my colleagues here in the Legislative Assembly. to make sure we pay for everything we have to pay.”
Spilka supported Baker on that point, telling reporters that the Legislature had included $12 million for Afghan refugees and $8 million for Haitian refugees in the American Rescue Plan Act spending bill. Last year.
“If necessary, we can do it for Ukraine [refugees] too,” she said.
Spilka said his “heart breaks for the people of Ukraine. It was horrible watching the news this past weekend…to see families torn apart and homes destroyed and to hear about the deaths that Putin has already inflicted.”
The House Republican Caucus circulated a letter to all members of the House and Senate Monday afternoon to garner support for calling on Treasurer Deborah Goldberg to conduct a portfolio review of the state pension fund and immediately sell all stakes related to Russian companies.
“By invading Ukraine, Putin showed a flagrant disregard for the fundamental principles of freedom, sovereignty and respect for international law. To continue to invest our public pension funds in Russian companies constitutes tacit approval of the deplorable actions of the Russia,” the caucus wrote in the newspaper. letter, which is open for signatures until Tuesday 10 a.m. “However, the divestment of our stakes in these companies will send a clear message that the Commonwealth condemns Putin’s actions and stands with the people of Ukraine, who have inspired the world with their incredible acts of heroism in standing firm against Russian aggression. “
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Senator Walter Timilty has also tabled legislation that would force the state pension fund to divest all stakes in companies doing business in Russia.
“Although PRIM does not currently own any sanctioned securities, we will continue to monitor the situation closely as we understand that the conflict has increased market volatility and the geopolitical impacts remain unknown. That said, PRIM is well positioned to navigate the these volatile markets,” Pension Reserve said. said executive director of investment management Michael Trotsky.
Trotsky said that while the state has no investments impacted by U.S. sanctions on Russia, it has an “exposure to Russia” of $140 million. That’s less than 0.2% of the roughly $104 billion fund.
Complete divestment of any type of funds invested by PRIM would require legislation from the Legislature, and all divestment bills introduced this session prior to last week had been sent back by Democratic leaders for further study, essentially a impasse for the legislation.
Goldberg generally does not support the concept of divestment, more recently pushing PRIM towards “shareholder activism” regarding investment in fossil fuel companies through the adoption of a policy that compels fund managers to vote against the directors of companies that do not adhere to the objectives of the Paris Agreement on the climate.
Goldberg has in the past supported legislation to divest gun manufacturers’ pension funds.
Rep. Patrick Kearney, a scituate Democrat, has introduced separate legislation proposing to ban the purchase and consumption by “all consumers” of Russian-made products.