State Senator Bruce Tarr recently presented legislation in the Massachusetts State Senate in response to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine. Senator Tarr Speaks to Heather Atwood about the details what the bill would do and why it’s important for Massachusetts to condemn the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Watch the video for the full interview.
You’ve been very busy this week. You filed a bill in response to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Do you want to tell us what the intention of that bill is and why you took this action?
Senator Bruce Tarr:
Absolutely and this is something that I feel very passionate about Heather. The things that are happening in the Ukraine are unconscionable. The actions by Russia need to be repudiated in every conceivable way. And the whole world is pulling together in many ways, in a way that we haven’t seen in a while to be able to take a stand against these heinous acts, this unjust war and to support the Ukrainian people who are showing us so much courage in the face of adversity and so much character. Even though state government is not directly involved in foreign policy, I think it’s important that we find a way to join that global effort to absolutely condemn what Russia is doing here. Obviously, one of the best ways to do that is through economic sanction and economic action and that’s what’s being done by our country.
And in Massachusetts, it’s important that we find every way that we can to not be providing any economic benefits to Russia. So we put together a bill that basically does three things. Number one, it provides the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the pension funds that we have with the authority to divest from Russian investments. A group of us had written to Treasurer Deb Goldberg and asked her to explore that divestiture. She responded that she needed statutory authority to do so, so that is one component of the bill.
The second piece of the bill is related to an executive order that was announced yesterday by the governor about trying to identify contracts that we might have that benefit Russia. This is probably going to be primarily centered on contracts for energy, but there could be others as well. This is a situation where, until you begin to scratch the surface, we don’t really know what we don’t know. We don’t know how many of these might be buried in the operations of state government. So Governor Baker is trying to begin the process with an executive order, but part two of our bill is to give him the statutory authority to go forward and terminate those contracts.
Then the third part of the bill has to do with assets that might be held by the Russian government, or in subsidiaries or companies directly tied to Russia. And to be able to say that we’re going to freeze the assets of those companies and not provide access to them because we do not want to be contributing to financing an unjust and evil war against the people of Ukraine.
So these are three tools that we believe can be very effective and the reason I’m using the term we is because we have a very strong coalition around this bill. We have bipartisan support bicameral support. As we talk right now, we have 30 co-sponsors. I predict that, that number will continue to grow and we will push to try to move expeditiously on this because unlike a lot of pieces of legislation, this one really does have an urgent need. We need to do this so that we can maximize the pressure put upon Russia in the hopes of changing the course of the events that are happening in Ukraine right now.