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In The News

House Panel backs anti-Sudan measures


DES MOINES --- A state lawmaker's stand against the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region earned the backing of an Iowa House committee Tuesday.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Dawn Pettengill, D-Mount Auburn, would move to divest state funds invested in companies that are complicit in the genocide or support the Sudanese government.

"It's a human rights issue, and it's just the right thing to do," Pettengill said.

The bill cleared the House State Government Committee on a 17-4 vote.

Pettengill said the Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System has more than $100 million invested in companies directly or indirectly connected with Sudan.  

Pettengill said the issue came to her attention three years ago by a constituent.

"Since then, I've really tried to push it along. And finally, I think this year we're going to get it through," Pettengill said.

She believes if Iowa were to take the lead on the issue, other states might follow.

"We could make a real difference on a global scale," Pettengill said.

A measure in the bill would limit losses to the IPERS fund related to a divestment.

Rep. Scott Raecker, R-Urbandale, opposed the bill, saying lawmakers should not be telling IPERS officials what to do. He argued the Legislature could take the same approach toward state funds invested in tobacco companies.

"I don't feel qualified to be passing a law that tells them what they should or should not be investing in," Raecker said.

Rep. Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf, believes the legislation is the right thing to do. But she wonders if it will be difficult to track the activities of multinational companies and their subsidiaries.

"I would hope it would make a good faith effort to not invest in them," Miller said of the legislation.

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