SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Rob Bonta is an East Bay assemblyman who thought he was introducing a simple bill. AB 22 would have removed part of California law that bans communists from working in state government.
While it hasn’t been enforced in about 50 years, Bonta quickly learned that when it comes to communism, legislation is not that simple.
When asked if he was now or had ever been a member of the Communist party, Bonta replied with a laugh, “Yeah, of course not.”
But tell that to people on Facebook who wrote things like “Rob Bonta wants communism in California!”
Currently, California law says it is “cause for dismissal” to be “a member of the communist party.” But Bonta says it’s already meaningless
That’s because in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law barring members of the communist party from working in a defense facility. It said, “the inhibiting effect on the exercise of first amendment rights is clear.” So California’s law would also be unenforceable.
“My original intent was this would be a technical cleanup bill,” said Bonta. “Take [out] unconstitutional language – clearly deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court off of California’s law books. It turned into — for some communities — to be much more than that.”
When it came time to present the bill on the floor of the State Assembly, some Republicans were strongly opposed.
“Communism stands for everything that the United States stands against,” said Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach). “We’re for freedom, we’re for justice. We’re for democracy. We’re for the rule of law. And communism is none of these things.”
Bonta’s Democratic colleagues also had concerns and several didn’t vote for the bill.
And then there were the Facebook posts — dozens of them — targeting Bonta with virulent criticism.
“Go to a communist country if you want communism,” read one. “Stop communism, Stop Rob Bonta,” read another. “You are a traitor with all us soldiers.”
In the end, Bonta decided the effort to clean up the law wasn’t worth the pain it was causing veterans and Vietnamese Americans, so he pulled the bill
“There have been experiences in certain communities — experiences with communist regimes — that are incredibly negative and very painful,” said Bonta. “So there were some vocal folks from those groups who came forward and you know, that spoke to me.”
Bonta said he has no interest in re-introducing the bill, but that he will continue to talk to the offended groups to make sure they understand his intention was not to invite communists into state employment.