Senate Public Safety Committee Kills Morrell Bill to Protect Memorials Honoring Veterans and First Responders

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, despite bipartisan support, Democrats on the Senate Committee on Public Safety rejected Senate Bill 1080 by Senator Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), which would have held individuals who vandalize the gravesites or memorials of veterans or first responders to greater accountability for their crimes.

“Veterans, peace officers, firefighters, and other first responders risk their lives in order to protect our communities and nation,” said Morrell. “It is our duty to ensure that future generations understand the significance of these individuals’ service and that their sacrifices are never forgotten. But this vote calls into question the resolve to hold vandals accountable for dishonoring the memories of fallen American heroes.”

SB 1080 would have enhanced legal penalties for actions such as defacing or stealing items left in memory of loved ones who served including, among many things, honorary American flags and grave markers. The crimes committed would be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

The bill was brought forward by the American G.I. Forum in response to the summer 2015 vandalism of the Mexican American Veterans Memorial in Sacramento’s Capitol Park. The statue, also known as “El Soldado,” had the end of its rifle broken off. It was originally commissioned by a group of Mexican-American mothers whose sons died during World War II.

SB 1080 is supported by various veterans and public safety groups including the American Legion, AMVETS, VFW Department of California, the California Association of County Veterans Service Officers, the Vietnam Veterans of America – California State Council, the Military Officers Association of America – California Council of Chapters, the California State Commanders Veterans Council, and the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association.

SB 1080 was blocked by a vote of 3-4.