- Bill targets state public employees’ and teachers’ pension plans
- Governor Jerry Brown expected to sign bill into law
California lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday requiring the state’s two largest pension plans to divest their holdings in thermal coal as part of a push this legislative session to address climate change.
“Coal is the fuel of the past and it’s no longer a wise investment for our pensioners,” said assemblyman Rob Bonta, who presented the bill before the assembly, in a statement. “I’m pleased that my colleagues agree: it’s time to move on from this dirty energy source.”
SB 185, also called “Investing with Values and Responsibility”, passed the state assembly by a vote of 43-27, mostly along party lines with some Democrats abstaining. It will now head to the governor’s desk to be signed into law – Governor Jerry Brown has expressed strong support for the climate change package and will probably formalize the bill in coming days.
The measure calls for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to begin a divestment process in any holdings of thermal coal, and to complete that divestment within 18 months of the law being applied to a particular pension system.
CalPERS and CalSTRS are the largest public pension funds in the US. CalPERS has about $292bn in assets and CalSTRS has $191bn in assets. CalPERS currently holds stock in about 30 coal companies, mostly in index funds, with a value of about $167m, according to legislative information on the bill.
CalSTRS has “approximately a $40m holding” in coal, according to a statement provided by Ricardo Duran, media relations spokesman for the plan.
CalSTRS has already begun examining the divestment issue, and expects that it will take four to eight months to complete that analysis.
“Any effort to remove thermal coal from the portfolio must first meet the board’s standard of fiduciary care,” the statement read. “CalSTRS’ first priority is, and always has been, safeguarding the financial futures of our members and their families, and to make decisions solely in the interest of our members and their beneficiaries.”
Thermal coal is used to produce electrical power throughout the United States, but in California, natural gas is more commonly used. However, “coal plants are the nation’s top source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the primary cause of global warming”, according to legislative information on the bill.
“Coal is losing value quickly and investing in coal is a losing proposition for our retirees; it’s a nuisance to public health; and it’s inconsistent with our values as a state on the forefront of efforts to address global climate change,” the senate president pro tempore, Kevin de León, said in a statement. “California’s utilities are phasing out coal, and it’s time our pension funds did the same.”
Carl Bernstein: There are 7-9 ‘wobbly’ Republicans who want witnesses but Mitch McConnell is trying to block them
In a CNN panel discussion Wednesday, notorious Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein revealed that there are seven to nine Republican senators who are wavering after the compelling argument that the House has provided for the impeachment. The problem, however, is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is refusing to allow any break from the party line.
"I think this is a hugely damaging narrative that was laid out today, and that Mitch McConnell understands, and has understood for a while that this hugely damaging narrative was going to affect his members," said Bernstein. "And that his strategy -- I've talked to some Republicans about this -- #MidnightMitch is to wear out his own members so that they don't vote for more witnesses because there are six, seven, eight, nine wobbly Republicans."
Republican Kevin McCarthy gets taken down by former top GOP colleague
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was attacked by a former Republican colleague who alleged McCarthy and his fellow members of Congress have allowed the House GOP to become the official shill for the White House.
In a profile for the New York Times, former Oversight Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) shamed the GOP House for the way that a once-respectable institution has fallen.
“Congress no longer operates as an independent branch of government, but as an appendage of the executive branch,” said Davis. “He is made for that role.”
Former senator reveals to Maddow how one brave Democrat can reveal key document in impeachment trial
Near the end of Wednesday's impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Roberts announced that an agreement had been made to allow senators to read supplemental testimony from Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams.
The document will remain classified, despite claims that there is no classified material in the document, only evidence that is damning to the president.
"In terms of this document potentially being improperly classified, which is something that has been raised in writing by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and raised on the floor of the Senate tonight by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)," MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow noted. "Obviously, it was the vice president's office that said it was classified, they are getting publicly criticized for that. If it has been improperly classified and it should be something that the public can see, who adjudicates that?"