A California lawmaker wants to give officials something new to think about when awarding massive contracts for the state's high speed rail system - whether the bidder transported Nazi victims to death camps during World War II.
Legislation would give the High-Speed Rail Authority the legal right to disqualify a French firm or other railway companies from construction contracts for their role in wartime atrocities committed more than six decades ago.
Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, said he hopes that his Assembly Bill 619 will persuade a French company to disclose the extent of its involvement in Nazi death-camp transportation and to pay reparations or make other amends.
"It's my hope and my firm belief that by shining a spotlight, this company will be highly incentivized to do the right thing - and I'm not defining what that is," he said, identifying the company as SNCF, short for Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais.
But Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, said California has no business penalizing companies for actions taken under different leadership in an era of world war.
"It's crazy, just as it would be crazy to judge me on slavery when I had nothing to do with it," Berryhill said.
Blumenfield said his bill could apply to any firm that meets its criteria, but it was crafted with SNCF in mind.
He said the firm, which operates much of France's railway system, is partially owned by the French government. California is expected to spend about $45 billion for an 800-mile bullet train system capable of zipping passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco or Sacramento at speeds of up to 220 mph.
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