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. He became the first Filipino American state legislator in California’s then 160-plus-year history.
Rob’s passion for opportunity 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 and disadvantaged 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 a stone’s throw away from César Chávez’s home, Bonta watched closely as his parents worked for the United Farm Workers of America and 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 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 going to college and law school, 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 worked with children and families in nearby public housing neighborhoods.
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.
Rob began his career as a publicly-elected official at the local level, first as a Director of the Alameda Health Care District and later as Vice Mayor of the City of Alameda.
In the State Assembly, Bonta currently serves as the Assistant Majority Leader. He serves on the Appropriations, Communications and Conveyance, Governmental Organization, and Health Committees.
He has authored significant legislation that promotes and defends our California values of Justice, Inclusion, Equity and Opportunity.
The legislation includes:
AB 1482, a landmark legislative victory for tenants in California. The 2019 legislation banned outrageous rent increases and unjust evictions and is considered the most impactful bill for tenants ever to become law. It came at a critical moment as tenants have suffered-- many living in fear that they are just one rent-gouging increase or one discriminatory, retaliatory, or arbitrary eviction notice away from losing their home. AB 1482 impacts people in a way that is profound and protects people’s homes- the very place where they should feel safe and where their families and children must feel safe.
AB 32: Assemblymember Bonta authored historic, first-in-the-nation legislation to end the use of for-profit, private prisons and detention facilities in California. The companies that operate these facilities are incentivized to maximize profits and minimize costs - including the important "costs" of investments in programs, services and rehabilitation efforts that reduce recidivism rates and increase success for Californians upon their reentry into society. Bonta says these Wall Street-owned for-profit, private facilities inhumanely treat people as commodities and stresses that no human being deserves to be held in the well-documented cruel conditions seen in these facilities.
The TRUTH Act, which stands up for, defends, and protects our immigrant neighbors. Signed into law in 2016, it requires immigrants be informed of their rights before speaking with ICE agents. It also mandates that local law enforcement hold a public forum to discuss their immigration policies, and makes all ICE-related records and data subject to the Public Records Act.
AB 72 from 2016 provides critical consumer protection from Surprise Medical Bills. A patient can receive a surprise bill even after they’ve done everything right and selected an in-network provider. Unbeknownst to the patient, a specialist who is not in his or her insurance’s network will provide treatment. The patient has no way of knowing that provider is out-of-network until a bill shows up. Ab 72 outlawed the practice of what the industry calls “balance billing” in these circumstances and now consumers who did everything right are protected from getting hit with a surprise bill.
AB 266, the Medical Cannabis Regulation & Safety Act, was a historic California cannabis policy bill. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. But for almost 20 years, the legislature could not agree on a comprehensive set of regulations. Bonta, along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, brought various stakeholders together to create a set of regulations that ensured patient and consumer safety, gave law enforcement foundational tools to fight impaired driving, protected children from cannabis marketing, and safeguarded the environment from harmful cultivation practices.
AB 1469 in 2014 ensured that California’s hard-working teachers receive the retirement benefits they’ve been promised. This bill tackled California’s largest unfunded liability head-on with a shared responsibility approach that created a permanent, on-going funding solution that will achieve full funding for teacher retirement.
The Buy Clean California Act, passed in 2017, was a first-of-its-kind environmental bill to fight climate change, the existential threat of our time, and close a large carbon loophole. With Buy Clean, California will put its money where its environmental values are and begin to purchase environmentally clean products for public building projects. This law was supported by a coalition of environmental, labor and industry groups-- all working together to protect our future, and our values and was recently featured during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in 2018.
In 2018, California passed historic bail reform, SB 10, to end an unfair, unsafe, predatory, for-profit money bail system and replace it with a system that’s safer and fairer. SB 10, which Bonta co-authored with his colleague Senator Bob Hertzberg, will implement a system based on an individual’s risk and not on their wealth. Justice should never favor the wealthy and punish the poor. But for too long, the California criminal justice system has treated people who are “guilty and rich” better than people who are “poor and innocent.” All Californians deserve justice and we should never have a justice system that is pay-to-play, a jail house door that opens and closes based on the size of one’s wallet instead of the size of one’s risk, or a practice that punishes poor people for being poor!
Rob and his wife Mialisa live in Alameda with their three children.