The California Assembly has approved a bill changing a 1953 law that made it a career-ending offense to be a member of the Communist Party.
On Monday, the state assembly narrowly approved a measure proposed by Democrat Assemblyman Rob Bonta that would remove references to communism from the 1953 bill against communist infiltration in the government, the LA Times reported.
The original statute warns of “a clear and present danger, which the Legislature of the State of California finds is great and imminent, that in order to advance the program, policies and objectives of the world communism movement, communist organizations in the State of California and their members will engage in concerted effort to hamper, restrict, interfere with, impede, or nullify the efforts of the State…and their members will infiltrate and seek employment by the State and its public agencies.”
The law then suggests being a member of the Communist Party is a sufficient reason for dismissal for public employees.
Bonta’s new bill, however, would eliminate all references to communism and would only apply to those who advocate the violent overthrow of government.
“It’s an old and archaic reference,” said the Democratic Assemblyman regarding the language about communism. In his view the bill was “really just a technical fix to remove that reference to a label that could be misused or abused, and frankly, has been in the past, in some of the darker chapters of our history in this country.”
Republican Assemblyman Randy Voepel attacked the bill, urging his colleagues to vote against it, claiming that military veterans fought against communists and a hostile political ideology “is still a threat.”
“The whole concept of communism and Communist Party members working for the state of California is against everything we stand for on this floor,” he said.
The bill managed to pass with a 41-vote majority, despite the measure initially coming up short due to some Democrats’ reluctance to vote for it, fearing future tight re-election races.
Other members of the Assembly voted ‘no’ as they came from districts with high immigrant populations who fled communist countries.
Bonta claims he recognizes the history, but added that due process must be applied to everyone.
“Part of having a functioning democracy and a fair and equitable society is to make sure you’re actually basing your decisions to take someone’s job away … based on their actual conduct, their actual behavior and actual proof and evidence, not just some loose label that could be applied overbroadly in a way that is unfair and unjust,” he said.
The bill will now move to the Senate.