California stoops to Donald Trump’s level with this bill to block border wall

Senator Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, poses for a portrait at the State Capitol on Aug. 4, 2016, in Sacramento.
Senator Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, poses for a portrait at the State Capitol on Aug. 4, 2016, in Sacramento. aseng@sacbee.com

We hate President Donald Trump’s idea of building a big, hideous wall at the Mexican border.

It won’t stop illegal immigration and would waste billions of dollars. Trump has used the concept as a demagogic tool to gin up his base, and has unnecessarily antagonized Mexico, one of this country’s closest friends.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who comes from an overwhelming Democratic district based in Bell Gardens, sees Trump’s wall as a direct assault on Latinos and immigrants. It is. But Lara’s response is wrong. He is flailing at it with legislative decrees that the state cease doing business with any contractor that helps build the wall. If such a step is legal, it would send California down a slippery slope. And that slope would be wide.

Lara’s Senate Bill 30, similar to measures in the New York Legislature and other jurisdictions, takes aim at the general contractor that might win the main federal contract. But it would extend far beyond that company and sweep up any “individual, partnership, joint venture, or association or any other organization or any combination thereof” that is “providing or has provided goods or services to the federal government for the construction of a federally funded wall, fence, or other barrier.”

Heavy equipment would be used to build a wall. So the boycott would extend to makers of bulldozers and cranes, which also are used on state projects. Since bulldozers and cranes need fuel, the boycott presumably would include oil companies, which fuel state vehicles.

Many contractors are union shops. Although Lara is a reliably pro-labor Democrat, the broad language of his bill suggests the state would stop employing the building trades locals that carry out the work on state jobs.

We wonder whether Lara, who is preparing to run for California insurance commissioner in 2018, and any other legislators who vote for his bill will take a vow of purity by refusing political contributions from all of the above. Consistency would demand they take such politically correct steps.

Consistency notwithstanding, fencing exists along much of California’s border. And California lawmakers did not hold companies responsible for building the existing wall up to public scorn or threaten them with lost business.

Lara’s SB 30 passed its first hurdle last week when eight Democrats on the Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted for it. Sens. Bill Dodd, who represents Davis, and Cathleen Galgiani, who represents Stockton and Modesto, were among the aye votes. Only one Democrat, Steve Glazer of Orinda, had the good sense to not vote. Republicans opposed it or didn’t vote.

Perhaps the legislators voted for it out of principle. Or maybe they were being craven. Lawmakers know that as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Lara has life or death power over every piece of legislation and they cross him at risk of losing bills important to them.

Lara has every right to use his political skills to work to unseat Trump and members of Congress who support the wall. Like any consumer, he can choose not to patronize Trump resorts and shun Trump family products. He could sue to block construction, as could the state itself.

But with his SB 30, Lara would use the state as a partisan battering ram against private companies, transforming the state into a bully. That’s familiar, a little like the occupant of the Oval Office who threatens companies and citizens who dare to cross him.