It’s rare that any bill gets the kind of bipartisan support enjoyed by AB 221–especially one authored by a freshman Republican. The bill, which calls for the state’s largest pension funds to divest from Iran, sailed through the Assembly on Tuesday with a 75-0 vote. It’s even garnered support from a bipartisan group of California Congress members.
“The president of Iran has said that it is his goal to attack the great Satan, develop nuclear weapons and wipe Israel from the face of the Earth,” said author Assemblyman Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa, when presenting his bill on the floor. “I take him at his word.”
The funds in questions, known as CalPERS and CalSTRS, manage over $400 billion between them. CalPERS spokesman Clark McKinley said that the version of the bill that passed likely would force the fund to move about $2 billion in assets, at a cost of around $25 million.
“Those are real ballpark,” McKinley said. “We don’t have the figures fully nailed down yet.”
McKinley said an earlier version of the bill could have affected more than $8 billion in CalPERS assets. However, Anderson took an amendment to focus the bill on the worst offenders, mainly 19 oil companies identified by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Anderson was able to sign up 26 co-authors for the California Public Divest from Iran Act, eight of them Democrats. The list included well-known liberal legislators like Sally Lieber and Lloyd Levine, as well as dyed-in-the-wool conservatives like Mike Villines and Chuck DeVore.
The only opposition on the floor came from Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton. Dymally took issue with Anderson’s comparison of his bill to the landmark 1986 effort by Representative Maxine Waters to lead divestment from South Africa. Dymally abstained during the vote.
“We’re talking about apples and oranges here,” Dymally said. “The entire world was against apartheid, not just a single country.”
Anderson’s bill has also gotten notice in Washington, D.C., with four members of California’s congressional delegation actively supporting it. This group includes Jewish liberal Democrat Howard Berman and Democrat George Miller along with two conservative Republicans: Kevin McCarthy and Ed Royce.
On May 23, the Congress members sent a letter of support to Assembly Speaker Fabian N