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Sweeping measure also applies to other laws that violate Constitution or state law

By Miriam Raftery

October 7, 2013 (Sacramento) – In a rare show of bipartisanship, Governor Brown has signed into a law a bill that passed the Legislature almost unanimously.  The measure makes California the third state to nullify provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allowing indefinite detention of citizens.

However California’s law goes farther, banning state cooperation with federal authorities on enforcement of any federal law that violates the U.S. Constitution, the California Constitution or California law.  The bill also prohibits use of state funds for such purposes.

The California  Liberty Preservation Act, Assembly Bill (AB) 351 prohibits state employees, agents and the California National Guard from knowingly aiding the U.S. military in any investigation, prosecution or detention of a person in California under sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA , or under the Authorization for Use of Military Force act, as well as anything that violates constitutional rights or state law.

The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that the states and the people shall retain all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government in the Constitution.  Founding father James Madison warned the people in the Federalist Papers urging ratification of the Constitution that the way for states to stop federal overreach of power would be for agents of the state to refuse to “cooperate with officers of the Union.”

But in recent years, numerous federal laws have arguably curbed states’ rights and Constitutional protections.

The NDAA suspended the right of habeus corpus, a freedom that dated back to the Magna Carta.   Thje NDAA also provided the President with absolute power to arrest citizens without even informing them of criminal charges, with no right to a trial or other due process safeguards required by the Constitution.

While written to prevent indefinite detention, AB 351 law could be interpreted to prevent the state from cooperating with the federal government on a wide range of other issues in which federal actions have overridden state laws, from marijuana regulation to gun laws to privacy rights.

The measure, if challenged in court, is apt to set up a confrontation over states rights that could ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We have a moral duty to protect Californians from the disastrous consequences made possible by the NDAA,” said Assemblyman  Tim Donnely, a Republican  and sponsor of the bill along with Democratic Senator Mark Leno said upon the Governor’s signing.  “When Constitutional protections are ignored, racist hysteria allows vulnerable groups to be targeted,” he noted, recalling the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Leon observed that indefinite detention amounts to, “just throwing away the basic foundations of our Constitution and of our nation.”

The bill passed the Senate 37-0, with two members not voting.

In the Assembly, it passed 71-1, with 7 members not voting. The lone vote against the measure came from Republican Rocky Chavez of Oceanside.    

The measure drew backing from a diverse coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Libertarian Party of California, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and the Tenth Amendment Center.

Read the full text of the bill.

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