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Capitol Roundup: Deported Veteran, Communist Worker, Student Defiance Bills Move Forward


The California Assembly has approved a bill that would allow the state to provide legal aid to deported veterans trying to re-enter the United States.

It’s intended to help military veterans who have committed crimes and were deported after serving their sentences. The bill would create a fund for the state to contract with a non-profit legal aid organization.

Republican Asm. Devon Mathis says he served with many men and women who weren’t U.S. citizens during his two tours in Iraq. He told his colleagues the question should simply be whether a deported veteran has been honorably discharged.

“And if the answer’s yes,“ Mathis said on the Assembly floor Monday, “then they have served their country honorably and then should be entitled to same benefits that all of us enjoy as citizens.”

Backers say the U.S. has always allowed immigrants to serve in the military – and promised them citizenship in exchange. They say veterans who committed crimes may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder – and deserve help, not deportation.

The measure passed the Assembly Monday without opposition and now moves to the Senate.

Another Assembly debate Monday was far more divisive. Lawmakers voted to roll back a Cold War-era law that allows the firing of state workers who are Communist Party members or advocates.

Democratic Asm. Rob Bonta says it’s time to end this “archaic” state law and instead focus on people’s actions and the evidence of their conduct.

“It moves away from empty labels and towards conduct that requires evidence and due process to prove that conduct, and I think it is an appropriate step forward,” Bonta said.

But Republican Asm. Steven Choi, who was a South Korean army lieutenant before immigrating to the U.S., called it a terrible idea.

“Why in the world we are so generous about Communist Party members?“ Choi asked. “What do we stand for in our country?”

The measure passed by a single vote and now also moves to the Senate.

The Senate, meanwhile, voted to permanently prohibit schools from suspending or expelling students for “willful defiance.” That’s where a student repeatedly disrupts school activities or intentionally ignores authorities.

Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner says teachers would still be allowed to suspend disruptive students from class. Instead of being suspended from school, the students would receive alternative discipline.

“We have growing data and a growing understanding that suspensions from school are a discipline that do more harm than good,“ Skinner said during Senate debate Monday. “Those same students become the ones much less likely to graduate, more likely to fail grades and to drop out.”

A law passed three years ago eliminated schools’ ability to expel any student for willful defiance – and barred the suspension for willful defiance of students in kindergarten-through-third grade. That law sunsets next year.

There’s no registered opposition to Skinner’s bill – and although most Republicans voted against it, none spoke during debate. The measure now moves to the Assembly.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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