Jewish Dem withdraws support of Republican’s anti-BDS bill, plans to introduce same legislation

A comparison of AB 1552 obtained by the Journal with AB 2844 shows the new bill is currently on track to be virtually identical to the current version of Allen’s bill, which includes amendments previously proposed by Bloom as a condition of becoming a joint author.
March 27, 2016

This story is developing.

For nearly three months, an anti-BDS bill Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica)

An official in Allen’s Sacramento office said there was “nothing to leak” and that the “timeline speaks for itself. ” The source believes Greenger “connected the dots” earlier this month after being declined on-the-record comment when she asked Allen’s office why the bill was stalled. Before Greenger wrote about the issue, there still appeared to be hope a deal could be reached between Allen and the Jewish caucus, but, the official said, Bloom asked Allen to postpone announcing him as the bill’s joint author, even though he had requested joint authorship in February, pending the caucus’s support and approval of his amendments.

“Bloom had that as a stipulation right when he signed on and [has] been pushing for no [press] coverage for a month,” the source, who asked to not be named, said. “Thus why you saw no related [press] release, even though we shook hands in February”

Allen’s bill is still technically alive and waiting to move forward, and includes bipartisan commitments to coauthor, including from Democrats Matt Dababneh (D-Encino) and Mike Gatto (D-Burbank), according to the proposed March 14 amendments to AB 1552. 

“AB 1552 is the only bipartisan bill in the California legislature that’s been organized and moving for months,” Allen said. “With bipartisan legislation already in existence, it would make the most sense to join together.”

Stone attended the recent AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. along with Allen, who’s a regular attendee and went this year in part to garner support for his bill among both Republicans and Democrats. Stone said Democratic members of his caucus were upset they had not been asked to give AB 1552 “a litmus test” before it was submitted.

“They’re going to promote their own bill, and they’re going to use their political might to suppress Travis Allen’s bill,” Stone said of his colleagues in the Jewish caucus. “He’s trying to make it bipartisan, and yet it sounds as if we have the Jewish caucus putting up roadblocks.”

But Jewish caucus chair State Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) says this isn’t about partisan politics, but about what will give an anti-BDS bill the best odds of success.

“If we have an anti-BDS bill that comes to the legislature, it will be very controversial. It will likely face heavy opposition by the pro-BDS folks,” said Block on March 28. “We think that a bill authored by the Jewish caucus will have more support from our colleagues in all the other ethnic caucuses and the rest of the legislature.”

Bloom said it is “certainly correct that the caucus would like to be the sponsor of legislation like this,” and said Allen “failed to consult with the caucus at all” before introducing the bill. But Allen's aide said Allen had met informally with caucus members and staffers at the end of 2015, before he introduced the bill, and in January and February met individually with caucus members and as a group with the caucus to review AB 1552.

“I was there when Travis Allen made his pitch, and it seemed as though Mr. Bloom was speaking very positively about partnering with him and coming back to the caucus with some type of joint effort to promote a bill,” Stone said, referring to a meeting between Allen and the Jewish caucus on Feb. 4. He criticized what he said would be his fellow caucus members promoting the bill from Allen, a fellow Republican, “under their name,” when “there was never anyone who came forward” with anti-BDS legislation until Allen introduced it.

Bloom countered that although discussions about the bill took place during the legislature’s fall break in the last quarter of 2015, “that is also a notoriously difficult time to gather together and arrive at decisions.”

Bloom said earlier interaction with the Caucus by Allen “would have avoided the mess we now find ourselves in,” which, Bloom said he hopes, “will disappear when my bill advances.”

“We have enough issues with those bearing ill will towards Jews and Israel. That is where our focus must be,” Bloom said.

Israel conducts significant trade with California. In 2014, the state exported just over $2.3 billion in goods to Israel — including manufactured goods, electronics and agricultural products. Also in 2014, Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a nonbinding agreement to boost high-tech cooperation between California and Israel, aimed at solving problems related to water, alternative energy sources and cyber security. And in Sept. 2015, Los Angeles County and the City of Beverly Hills each signed nonbinding agreements to cooperate with Israel on water scarcity issues.

Neither AB 1552 nor Bloom’s expected bill is the first bill of its kind. Last year Illinois passed a law barring state pension funds from investing in companies that boycott Israel. And South Carolina has a law requiring state contractors to affirm they’re not involved in any boycott of Israel. Earlier this month, the Florida legislature passed a similar bill, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law.

In early January, Allen also introduced AB 1551, which would direct the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to divest from companies that boycott or engage in political or economic discrimination against Israel. CalPERS and CalSTRS have portfolios worth nearly $500 billion combined, the largest of their kinds in the nation. AB 1551 is still waiting to be referred to the Rules Committee.

So far, the BDS movement’s success in the United States has been limited to votes of support in student governments on dozens of American campuses, as well as to liberal churches like the Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, and several academic associations. But the effectiveness of the movement in Europe is a different story. BDS had a major victory in January, when the European Union, Israel’s top trading partner, mandated that some imported products originating from the West Bank should be labeled as “made in settlements.” 

Stone said he fears the current discord over Allen’s anti-BDS legislation could provide an opening to anti-Israel, pro-BDS forces, and he thinks “the liberal approach by the Jewish caucus” could make the bill vulnerable to becoming something that’s “not going to be what people expect in the end.”

“What I worry about is that a caucus-sponsored bill may be amended in ways we don’t like,” Stone said. “There are going to be BDS people in these hearings that take advantage of this division.”

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