–California Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously Passes SB 1524–but Partners Bill with Controversial Legislation
SACRAMENTO–Legislation that would grant Armenian genocide victims and their heirs access to California courts to recover bank deposits wrongfully withheld since the Armenian genocide–unanimously passed the California State Senate Judiciary Committee on May 9.
The same committee–however–chaired by Senator Joe Dunn of Garden Grove–also voted to accept a hostile amendment that attaches a highly controversial and unrelated bill to the bi-partisan supported Armenian Genocide Bill–which endangers its ability to be signed by the Governor and become law.
The "Armenian Genocide Bank and Looted Assets Recovery Act" SB 1524–authored by State Senators Jackie Kanchelian-Speier and Charles "Chuck" Poochigian–and sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)–was presented for consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee–on May 9. The bill would allow victims and heirs recovery–through California Courts–of assets looted from commercial entities operating in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey during the Armenian genocide–which have been wrongfully withheld since the Genocide.
Speaking in support of the bill–Katia Kermoyan-Khodanian spoke of the dire need for this legislation and recounted the harrowing experience of her relative Markar Kermoyan who had lost his bank deposits and assets during the Armenian genocide without any recourse.
Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA – WR) Chairman Steven Dadaian–spoke in support of the Bill–informing the committee that California has a public policy interest in protecting the rights of its almost 1,000,000 strong Armenian American community by granting California courts jurisdiction over banks operating in the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian genocide.
Dadaian also reminded the Committee that only five years ago the State enacted the "Armenian Genocide Era Insurance Act" based on the same public policy.
Lending the Greek community’s support was Steven Miles–Executive Director of the American Hellenic Council–who spoke strongly of the deep bond between Greeks and Armenia’s forged in the common persecution and Genocide their communities faced in Turkey from 1915-1923.
Don Engstrom–from the Consumer Attorneys Association of California–also expressed support for the legislation.
The hostile amendment–binds SB 1765 to SB 1524 that entitles lawsuits to be filed for wrongfully repatriated Mexican Americans during the 1930s.
Speaking strongly in opposition to the binding of these two separate and distinct Bills–the ANCA’s Steven Dadaian informed the Committee that while his organization supports the correcting of all historic wrongs–he nevertheless views the effort as an attempt to "hijack the Armenian Bill with legislation that has thrice been vetoed by consecutive administrations. We encourage each bill to be weighed on their own merits separately. It is illogical and unfair to do otherwise."
Senator Senator Bill Morrow (Vice-Chair) voted against the hostile amendment–while Senators Joseph Dunn (Chair)–Dick Ackerman–Martha Escutia–and Sheila Kuehl supported the move.