State Senate Select Committee on Calif., Armenia and Artsakh Exchange Reauthorized

California State Senator Anthony Portantino
California State Senator Anthony Portantino

California State Senator Anthony Portantino

SACRAMENTO—At the request of State Senator Anthony J. Portantino, the California State Senate Rules Committee re-authorized the State Senate Select Committee on California, Armenia and Artsakh Mutual Trade, Art and Cultural Exchange. The Committee aims to explore innovative ways of strengthening cultural and economic ties between our great state, Armenia and Artsakh. Senator Portantino will continue chairing the committee throughout the 2019-2020 legislative session.

Last September, Portantino joined a delegation of legislators, business and non-profit leaders on a trade trip to Yerevan and Gyumri. The trip marked his second visit to Armenia and introduced participants to the many facets of the tech and education communities in Armenia’s two largest cities.

In February, Senator Portantino introduced SB 302 to reestablish the California-Armenia Trade Office in hopes of formalizing a positive economic relationship with Armenia. The legislature has a history of encouraging trade between California and Armenia. In 2002, Governor Gray Davis signed SB 1657 authored by Jack Scott establishing the Trade Office, which functioned as a key point of contact for improving California and Armenian business development until it was closed by Governor Schwarzenegger during the great recession.

“I am very grateful to Senate Pro Tem Atkins and the Senate Rules Committee for re-authorizing our historic and important Select Committee. California is home to a vibrant and thriving Armenian American Community. Our committee presents the perfect forum to build stronger economic ties that will benefit California and Hayastan and act upon the exciting new leadership in Sacramento and Yerevan,” commented Senator Portantino.

Immediately following its establishment in 2017, the Select Committee held its inaugural event, an advanced screening of Terry George’s film, The Promise. In 2018, Portantino convened the first public hearing of the Select Committee commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Sumgait Pogrom while providing an update on the University of California student led Divest Turkey initiative.

Portantino represents California’s 25th Senate District, which is home to the largest Armenian American community in any legislative district across the nation. Upon assuming office, he successfully worked to secure an additional $3 million state investment for the Armenian American Museum in Glendale.

During his tenure as Chair of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education, Portantino worked with his colleagues and the Genocide Education Project to allocate $500,000 from the 2018-2019 State Budget for the creation of study guides to properly teach all California students about the Armenian Genocide.

In addition to Chairman Portantino, the Senators on the select committee are Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Senators Bob Archuleta, Andreas Borgeas, Maria Elena Durazo, Melissa Hurtado, Susan Rubio, Henry Stern, Scott Wiener and Scott Wilk.

“The work of the Select Committee is bi-partisan and focused on fostering cooperation between Armenia, Artsakh and California. I am excited to join Senator Portantino as advocates for this laudable effort. I’m honored to be part of this important committee and I look forward to building on last year’s efforts and ensuring future successes,” concluded Senator Scott Wilk.

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