Schwarzenegger vetoes bill targeting French high-speed rail
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill requiring rail companies seeking contracts with California's high-speed train project to disclose whether they transported Jews to Nazi death camps in World War II.
The bill, voted in August by California's state congress, also required bidding firms to disclose any reparations paid to Holocaust survivors and their families.
Although sympathizing with Nazi victims and others transported against their will in World War II, Schwarzenegger rejected the proposed Holocaust Survivors Responsibility Act late Thursday, saying it "needlessly places the state in a position of acknowledging the activities of companies during that time."
Democratic Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, the measure's chief sponsor, specifically targeted France's state-run SNCF railway if it submitted a bid to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which plans to build an 800-mile (1,300-kilometer) train system from San Diego to San Francisco.
The SNCF said it respected Schwarzenegger's decision but "still plans to fully comply with the bill's intent."
"The atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during WWII were so horrific that we can never forget, nor should we. The people of France and SNCF have made this commitment through our words and our deeds, and we will continue to do so now and into the future," it added.
"That's why SNCF will continue its commitment to complete transparency of its WWII history, and will voluntarily comply, and even exceed, the requirements AB 619 would have mandated."
Blumenfield's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But the SNCF, which operates France's TVG high-speed train service and most other French railroads, could face another round of grilling, this time in the US Congress.
Democratic Representative Ron Klein of Florida says he planned legislation to bar the SNCF from lucrative US high-speed rail contracts.
"No company whose trains carried innocent victims to death camps should have the right to lay the first inch of track in this country," he said.
Klein's bill, developed in concert with help from Holocaust survivors and their families, targeted the SNCF's bids on high-speed rail projects in his home state of Florida and in California.
In early September, Florida Governor Charlie Crist said his state would examine whether the SNCF should be allowed to make bids given its alleged role in deporting Jews during World War II.
© 2010 AFP