A bill that would prohibit state entities from doing business with Russia or Russian companies sailed through the Assembly unanimously today; the Senate passed the same bill last week, and Gov. Phil Murphy has indicated he will sign it.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), the leader of the bill in the Assembly, likened Russia’s actions to those of Nazi Germany and said that New Jersey had an obligation to respond in any way it could.
“We believe in democracy; we believe in freedom; we believe in justice,” Schaer said. “Today we have the opportunity to join with the New Jersey Senate in passing this bill, and making the most forceful statement that we could make… We have the opportunity to show this state, its people, and other states in this country what we stand for and what we believe in.”
First proposed by State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) the day after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, the bill would cover “pension investments, public contracts, professional services, deals with Russian financial institutions, and tax abatements” for any company tied to Russia or Belarus, a country closely linked with the Russian government.
On the Senate side, the bill advanced through the Senate Budget Committee last Monday and passed the full Senate on Thursday.
The Assembly version of the bill, which was also co-sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-South Amboy) and Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio (R-Hackettsown), was never brought before a committee and went straight to second reading; today’s Assembly session was not originally on the Assembly schedule and was only called in order to pass the bill.
Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, who seconded the bill, told the gathered legislators about her Ukrainian sister-in-law’s family, who chose to remain in Ukraine.
“They have a restaurant in the Ukraine; they have a farm in the Ukraine; they have a whole life, just like we have here,” Timberlake said. “What they said was, ‘We’re not leaving. We will reopen our restaurant and we will serve soup to the soldiers on the front lines. We will preserve our democracy.’”
A resolution more broadly condemning Russia’s actions has also passed both chambers, though that legislation has no formal impact. Murphy has indicated he is open to pursuing further legislation, and additionally said that the state will welcome any Ukrainian refugees who make it to the United States.