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Bills would restrict state pension fund investment options

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State legislators have unveiled a pair of bills that would restrict how New Jersey's public retirement funds place investments.

Assembly Bill 3862 would bar the New Jersey State Pension Fund from investing towards companies which foreclosed homes in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

In 2017 and 2018, Housing and Urban Development officials declared a moratorium of home foreclosures on the island. Following the hurricane, power was knocked for the majority of the island’s 3.4 million residents, as was critical infrastructure.

Right now, the presidentially mandated foreclosure moratorium applies to residents who live within the geographic areas impacted by the storm, household members of someone killed, injured or missing as a result of the hurricane, or if their ability to make mortgage payments is affected by the hurricane.

But an array of entities, according to AB3862, were reportedly still taking part in the practice. The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, D-33rd District, and Assemblywoman Annette Annette Quijano, D-20th District.  

The bill passed out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday afternoon by an 8-3 vote; its state Senate counterpart cleared the floor in mid-April.

Under another bill, Assembly Bill 997, none of the state’s public employee retirement funds would be allowed to invest in companies that weren’t fulfilling their Superfund obligations in New Jersey.

The provisions of A997 would apply to any pension funds, be it for workers at the municipal, county or state level, which couldn’t invest in those entities. It is being heard before the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

Any site identified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund, and then declares bankruptcy, thereby failing on their promise to make good on those obligations, wouldn’t see a cent of investment money from New Jersey’s public employee pension funds.

Generally, the term “Superfund” is applied to toxic waste sites in need of long-term, remedial clean-up. Many are the leftovers of factories, power plants or other industrial sites which for many years violated environmental regulations, or operated for years before those regulations were enacted.

As of March 2016, there were just over 100 Superfund sites in New Jersey.

Thursday’s bills are not by any means the first moves to restrict where money from the state’s public employee pension funds can be invested.

In April 2016, former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed a measure which would prohibit the state pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israel, part of the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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