• Ben Szalinski
    FEB 25, 2022


    State lawmakers push Russia divestment, refugee funding boost amid Ukraine invasion

    Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) speaks Thursday about his thoughts on the war in Ukraine.

    After waking up to the news Russia invaded Ukraine ending decades of peace on the European continent, Illinois state lawmakers offered their reactions Thursday — in some cases by proposing legislation to punish Russia and ready the state for a wave of refugees. 

    Republican lawmakers proposed two legislative paths to remove any financial support for Russia and ready for a potential refugee crisis that may evolve out of the war. Lawmakers said they were appalled to hear the news of the Russian attack and the state should do its part to show solidarity with Ukrainians.   

    “We must send a strong signal to these people that we stand with them and support their sovereignty – that the State of Illinois is prepared to do what we can to help,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) said in a statement.   

    Durkin said he is proposing legislation (HB5704 and HB5705) to end any direct financial ties the state has to Russia and Russian businesses. Durkin wants the state to “divest of any pension funds in Russian companies” and prohibit the treasury from holding Russian assets.   

    “This is an opportunity for us to stand up as a bipartisan body and do what is right to support the Ukrainian people in the face of unimaginable hardship,” Durkin said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get this done."  

    Treasurer spokesperson Paris Ervin said the state’s investment portfolio does not include any Russian companies. She said some the portfolios under the state’s College Savings, Illinois Achieving a Better Life Experience and Secure Choice accounts may have some options for people participating in the programs that include funds that could be involved in Russian holdings.  

    Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) is calling on lawmakers to increase funding for the Department of Human Services’ refugee resettlement program. Demmer wants to set aside $20 million for the current fiscal year and next fiscal year to aid the resettlement of refugees from Ukraine.   

    Demmer offered a moment of silence on the House floor Thursday for the people of Ukraine.  

    “One thing Illinois can do and has done in previous conflicts like this is to welcome refugees form war-torn countries,” Demmer said.   

    House Majority Leader Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said the proposals would get the same consideration as all other bills.   

    Many Illinois lawmakers also took to social media to express their support for the people of Ukraine and condemn Vladimir Putin’s actions.   

    “I am grateful to see [President Joe Biden] strengthen sanctions on Russia to hold them accountable for the senseless suffering this aggression has, and will, continue to cause,” House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside) said in a statement. “My prayers remain with the Ukrainian people and the reset of the free world and we unite against this autocratic regime.”   

    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also personal for Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). McConchie’s wife is an immigrant from Bulgaria, which fell behind the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain.  

    “I think the best thing that we can do in our society when we see governments of this sort that are performing these kinds of actions overseas is to reinforce the goodness and the quality that we have here in America,” McConchie said during a news conference.

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