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Thanks to movies like “Blood Diamond” and “Hotel Rwanda,” Americans are becoming more and more aware of the harsh conditions in many African nations. Terroristic governments and anti-government terrorists perpetuate much of the violence in these nations and others such as Iran.


New legislation proposed by Philadelphia Sen. Mike Stack will attempt to financially weaken brutal leaders in Sudan and Iran and play a role in ­changing these horrific and threatening environments.

“The bill mandates that Pennsylvania divest from the Sudan and Iran,” said Stack. “There have been a number of movies about genocide in Africa and people see them and say how did this happen? We have to make sure there are interest groups invested in these African issues.”

Senate Bill 928 would require Pennsylvania’s two largest pension funds and the Pennsylvania Treasury Department to divest from investments in Sudan and Iran. The legislation passed through the Senate with a vote of 42 to 7 and is now up for consideration in the House.

Currently there are 28 states that have either passed divestment laws or divested from Iran, Sudan or both through executive orders. Similar legislation was used to end apartheid in South Africa in 1986.

“It doesn’t matter if it costs us, it’s the right thing to do economically and morally. There is also this view that this is not a state issue. But I think the trend is turning much more towards tax payers saying I don’t want to use my money this way,” Stack said. “If folks are concerned that we’re going to have to pay a little more money for oil because we’re going to refuse to deal with perpetrators of genocide, that’s a price we as politicians have to be willing to take.”

According to U.N. estimates, 300,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been driven from their homes in Sudan’s Darfur region since 2003.

“In Sudan, primarily they target Black people in the area of Darfur,” Stack said. “I come from a city where 40 percent of the population is African-American. I’m honored to be able to stand up for an issue African-Americans would have some affinity to.”

Locally Stack is setting his sights on next year’s budget, with a current proposal by Gov. Ed Rendell of $29.3 billion. Due in large part to partisan differences, Pennsylvania has not passed a budget on time since 2003 and it is expected that 2011 will be the eighth time.

“We’ve talked about partisan differences but I think by necessity we will have to work together,” Stack said. “It’s important for the morale of the state that we get it passed on time.”

Perhaps the greatest challenges will come from reaching compromises on education funding. The governor’s proposed budget includes a $350 million increase, a number even Stack admits might need to be lower.

“This governor has done a great job at targeting areas of education funding,” Stack said. “If we aren’t investing in our children for our future we have no chance to succeed.”

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