SACRAMENTO, Calif.—The California State Senate Rules Committee established on Thursday an historic Senate Select Committee on California, Armenia and Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art and Cultural Exchange reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region. The select committee came at the request of State Senator Anthony J. Portantino and will serve to expand business opportunities through trade, economic development, cultural awareness and education between California, Armenia and Artsakh. Portantino will Chair the committee.
“The ANCA-WR welcomes this transformative undertaking by the California State Senate in establishing the nation’s first such committee related not only to Armenia, but to Artsakh as well,” exclaimed ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “We extend our deep gratitude to Senator Portantino for spearheading this just three months after being sworn into office, Senate President Pro Tem and Chair of Rules Committee Kevin de León for his leadership, and Senators Tony Mendoza, Josh Newman and Scott Wilk for their staunch support. These are the game changing results we see when the Armenian-American community is civically engaged and helps elect officials who understand our concerns, and who act swiftly to advance our issues,” added Asatryan.
The legislature has a history of encouraging trade between California and Armenia, and in fact, a California Armenia Trade Office was created and funded through legislation, which functioned as a key point of contact for improving California and Armenian business development until it was closed during the great recession budget crisis. By approving this Select Committee, the California State Senate expressed its commitment to facilitating and expanding relations with the two Armenian Republics.
“I am very proud to bring this important committee and mission to fruition,” commented Portantino. “There is a lot for all three countries to offer each other and I am confident that Armenia and Artsakh will be terrific partners for the best of California’s industry, art and culture. I look forward to working through the Select Committee to explore new ways of strengthening cultural and economic ties between California, Armenia and Artsakh,” added Portantino.
Select Committee Chair Portantino concluded that since the Senate did not have a standing committee tasked with expanding trade and economic development beyond California’s borders, there was a need to initiate an effort to fill this void. California has the largest population of Armenian Americans in the country with a significant number of prominent Armenian American business owners residing here. This committee creates a tremendous opportunity to augment national efforts to expand trade and commerce between the US and Armenia and Artsakh. The Select Committee will convene meetings with Armenian American business owners and California industry leaders to develop and expand opportunities of mutual economic benefit.
This committee will serve to further raise the profile of California’s Armenian American community within the State Legislature.
This past June, Portantino spent 10 days traveling in Armenia and Artsakh with Glendale Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan. They visited and met with businesses leaders, innovation centers and media and government leaders. In addition to Chair Portantino, the Senators on the select committee are Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, Tony Mendoza, Josh Newman and Scott Wilk.
On Sunday, February 26, Senator Portantino held a community swearing-in ceremony at Glendale Community College. Several hundred community members representing various segments of the diverse district were in attendance, including many leaders from the ANCA-WR and local chapters. Portantino had been sworn in formally on December 5 at the State Capitol, alongside his newly elected colleagues. The event on Sunday was ceremonial and intended to provide an opportunity for his constituents to share in the momentous occasion of his assumption of the office of senator. The ceremonial oath was administered by State Controller Betty Yee.
Senator Portantino was elected to the California State Senate in November 2016 and represents 930,000 residents, including the largest Armenian constituency outside of Armenia. The 25th Senate District, includes Altadena, Atwater Village, Bradbury, Burbank, Claremont, Duarte, Glendale, Glendora, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, La Verne, Monrovia, Montrose, Pasadena, San Dimas, San Marino, Shadow Hills, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, Sunland-Tujunga, and Upland.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.