Assemblymember Rob Bonta was elected to the California State Assembly's 18th District in 2012, where he represents the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro as the first Filipino American state legislator in the history of California.
Rob’s passion for justice and equality was instilled in him at a very young age by his parents, who taught him to understand injustice and the importance of joining the struggle to empower vulnerable communities. His father was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Deep South – marching for equality and justice in Selma. His mother was and continues to be a long-time leader in the Filipino social justice movement.
Growing up in a trailer just a few hundred yards from César Chávez’s home, Bonta watched closely as his parents organized Filipino and Mexican American farm workers, infusing his formative years with first-hand experience of one of the greatest peaceful social, racial, and economic justice movements of all time. This had a huge impact on Rob’s life choices and pursuits, inspiring his life’s commitment to helping people.
Rob believed legal training was one of the most powerful ways to effect positive and profound change in the lives of those who needed it most. He worked his way through college cleaning laundry rooms and, with the help of financial aid, was able to achieve his dream of attending some of the best universities in the world, obtaining his Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School after attending Yale College and Oxford University in England. Earning honors in college, Rob was also a scholar athlete, captaining the Yale Soccer team. He also paved the way for the advancement of students of color as a mentor and volunteered in support of local children struggling with poverty.
His legal career included work as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, where he represented the City and County and its employees, and as a private attorney, where he fought to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling. Rob was undefeated at trial, never losing a jury verdict for his clients. Prior to being elected to the Alameda City Council, Rob served as the Chair of the City of Alameda’s Economic Development Commission, where he focused on business attraction and retention efforts, and as board president for the Social Service Human Relations Board, where he fought to protect safety net services for the most vulnerable members of the community. As Vice Mayor of the City of Alameda, Bonta strongly supported public safety, fostered economic development, and exercised fiscal responsibility.
In the Assembly, Bonta continues to build upon this work, successfully passing legislation to keep neighborhoods safe, provide a quality education to all of our children, build prosperous and healthy communities, foster economic opportunity, and protect our social service safety net. In 2014, Bonta passed 20 bills through the Legislature, 16 of which were signed into law by Governor Brown (2 of those were signed as part of the Budget Act).
Bonta’s work to improve the health of Californians began as an elected member of the Alameda Health Care District Board of Directors, where he championed access to quality health care for all – a goal he further pursued his first two years in the Assembly as a member of the Health Committee. He has also authored and co-authored a number of bills to promote public health, including AB 174 to provide funding for school-based health centers, AB 514 and AB 1629 to increase access to services for victims of gun violence, AB 1271 to require school safety plans to include a mental health plan for students, AB 966 to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs in prisons, and SB 1005 to expand health care benefits to undocumented members of our community. Appointed Chair of the Assembly Health Committee by Speaker Toni Atkins in December 2014, Bonta continues to build upon this strong track record of promoting a healthier California by authoring AB 72 with Speaker Atkins, to ensure California continues to provide the best possible health care services to its residents.
As Chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay during his first two years in the Assembly, Bonta held hearings throughout the state to engage stakeholders and identify strategies to reduce gun violence in his own district and throughout California. The hearings inspired Bonta to introduce AB 1629 to expand the California Victims Compensation Program to include reimbursement for violence prevention and intervention services to help heal victims, families, and communities harmed by violent crime. The bill passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support and was signed by the Governor.
As Chair of the Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee, Bonta convened a series of hearings to address the $74 billion CalSTRS funding shortfall, which resulted in AB 1469, a legislative fix to address the long-term CalSTRS shortfall and ensure that hard-working teachers receive the retirement security they have been promised.
Bonta paid tribute to his parents’ work and the Filipino-American community by authoring AB 123 his first year in the Assembly. AB 123 requires state school curricula to include the contributions of Filipinos to the farm labor movement in California. Governor Brown fittingly signed the bill during Filipino Heritage Month. Now, a new generation of Californians will learn about the transformative struggle for justice of the farm labor movement and the great historical collaboration between Filipino Americans and Latinos, which is so much a part of Bonta’s own family history.
Bonta currently serves as Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, the Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee, and the Co-Chair of the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color in California. He is also a member of the following committees: Appropriations, Budget, Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services, Joint Legislative Budget, and Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management.