Murphy signs law prohibiting N.J. business dealings with Russia’s government

Standing in front of the flags of New Jersey, and Ukraine, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during his budget address in Trenton, N.J., Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Standing in front of the flags of New Jersey, and Ukraine, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during his budget address in Trenton, N.J., Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

On Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a new law that would prohibit state government dealings with businesses associated with Belarus and Russia’s governments amid the latter’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

It comes almost 24 hours after Murphy signaled he supported the bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this month.

“New Jersey cannot and will not stand idly by as a tin-pot dictator invades the free and independent nation of Ukraine,” Murphy said. “We are sending a strong message today to Vladimir Putin and his cronies in Belarus that their actions will not be tolerated. I am proud to have worked with Senator Sarlo, Assemblyman Schaer, and the Legislature to make certain that our state plays its part in ensuring that the exodus of businesses leaving Russia and Belarus continues. Our administration stands with President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine in their valiant effort to fight back against Russia’s illegitimate and brutal invasion.”

The measure passed unanimously in both houses of the Legislature.

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It allows the state to create a list of New Jersey businesses that do business with the Russian and Belarusian governments and prevent them from entering into or renewing contracts with the state government to purchase goods, services, or bonds.

It also prevents those businesses from receiving a tax clearance certificate from the state’s Department of the Treasury, among other restrictions.

At a voting session on Tuesday, a pair of Assemblymembers gave impassioned remarks supporting the legislation.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-36) likened Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion to Hitler’s regime.

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“We are all aware of what is going on in Ukraine. We are all aware of the hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians who have been killed,” Schaer said.

“Despite our petty differences, we stand together as a body. Our vision perhaps is different for what the world should be. But these differences are minor. We believe in democracy. We believe in freedom. We believe in justice. Those are items which do not come as a result of fascist dictatorships marching unannounced, undesired, and unrequested,” he said.

Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-34) spoke about her relatives living in Ukraine. She said that her sister-in-laws’ parents chose to stay in Ukraine instead of fleeing the country to serve soup for soldiers fighting in the war.

“We have brothers and sisters of democracy in Ukraine that are willing to die for the right to preserve their democratic country,” Timberlake said.

“Anytime democracy is threatened across the entire globe, we should be willing to do that in which we are doing right now and stand behind the people in the best way that we can to help them preserve their democratic rights,” she said.

According to language in the bill, the state will “immediately” begin to create a list of “persons it determines engaged in prohibited” business dealings in Russia and Belarus. The government will be responsible for notifying companies that are listed.

The new law states that any company that puts in a bid for a state project needs to certify that it is not doing business with Russia and Belarus, and if any company falsely certifies this information, the government will fine them $1 million, or twice the amount of the bid (if the bid is over $1 million).

Companies will have 90 days, after being notified, to withdraw their business with Russia and Belarus.

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