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Legislation

Maryland comptroller calls on state retirement system to review Alabama ties following new abortion bill

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, vice chairman of the $52.7 billion Maryland State Retirement & Pensions System, Baltimore, is calling on the system's executive management to review "all relationships that we have with businesses" in Alabama following the latter state's restrictive abortion bill signed into law Wednesday.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Mr. Franchot, a Democrat, said the review will include a full inventory of assets that are invested in Alabama-based companies, as well as all investment managers, brokers and consultants that are headquartered or have regional offices in the state. "I will ask that this review and full inventory of business relationships be presented to the Board of Trustees on an expedited basis, so that we can hopefully initiate the process of full divestment from the state of Alabama," he said.

The board next meets Tuesday. In a phone interview, Mr. Franchot said that since the next meeting is so soon, the discussion may have to take place at a subsequent meeting. "Whatever I suggest will be based on that data, which I don't have," he said.

When asked for a comment, system spokesman Michael Golden said in an email that neither the system staff nor Nancy K. Kopp, chairwoman of the board, has been contacted by the comptroller yet.

It's a decision Mr. Franchot said he and the board will reach "with a lot of caution, because we have a fiduciary interest."

While the review takes place, Mr. Franchot said in his post that he will ask that no system employees or trustees travel to Alabama under any circumstances — "be it for professional conferences or meetings with current or prospective investment partners. It is my hope that this travel restriction would be replicated throughout Maryland state government as a whole."

Mr. Franchot takes issue with the Alabama bill that makes it a felony for a doctor to perform or attempt an abortion in the state during any stage of pregnancy.

"I don't have any involvement, obviously, with Alabama, but I would hate to see the citizens of Maryland subsidize that kind of extremism," Mr. Franchot said in an interview.

Lori Johns, deputy press secretary for media relations for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, could not immediately be reached for comment.