Oakland Assemblyman Drops Bill to Allow Communists in State Government

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Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) was forced to drop AB 22 on Wednesday, after bipartisan opposition. (Steve Yeater/CALmatters)

For now, Communists working in state government cannot unite.

An effort to end the ban preventing Communist Party members from working in California's state government has died, a week after passing the State Assembly.

AB 22 from Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) barely passed off the Assembly floor on May 8, drawing bipartisan opposition. On Wednesday, Bonta announced the legislation was being shelved.

"Through my conversations with veterans and members of the Vietnamese-American community, I heard compelling stories of how AB 22 caused real distress and hurt for proud and honorable people," said Bonta in a statement on Wednesday. "For that, I am sorry.”

The legislation was intended as a "cleanup" bill, to remove language that Bonta said violated the constitutional right of free association. He said the bill would instead require "evidence and due process to prove that conduct" was threatening to the United States.

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Republicans forcefully objected to the legislation on the floor last week, contending the provision was especially offensive to veterans and refugees from communist nations.

"Why in the world are we so generous about Communist Party members?" asked Orange County Assemblyman Steven Choi.

Choi said as a member of the military in South Korea, he faced off against communist North Korean soldiers in the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Travis Allen, another Orange County Republican, called the bill "blatantly offensive" to Californians.

"In my district alone, we have the Vietnamese-Americans who had to flee a communist regime," he added. "Which is why they’re now in Orange County."

That argument appears to have pushed six Democrats to vote against the bill. Another eight abstained. Debate on AB 22 in the Senate could have revived the controversy over the removal of Republican Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Vietnam refugee, from the floor.

Nguyen was removed earlier this year as she spoke out against former senator and Vietnam War opponent Tom Hayden, who died last year.

In his statement announcing the decision not to move forward with the bill, Bonta thanked Democratic Assemblymen Ash Kalra and Kansen Chu "for their consultation and guidance on this issue."

Kalra and Chu did not vote on the measure, and both represent San Jose, where more than 10 percent of the population is Vietnamese.