State Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American state legislator in the history of California, met with AP Human Geography students on April 15 to discuss city planning, urban geography and more.
Elected to the Assembly’s 18th District in 2012, Bonta represents the cities of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. His daughter, Reina, is a junior at O’Dowd.
Bonta talked with students about his efforts to increase California’s minimum wage, first to $10 an hour, and then last month to $15 an hour – the highest in the nation until New York followed suit hours after California’s bill passed.
“Today, we passed a transformational measure that reflects a core value I believe all in this chamber can agree with: If you work hard, and play by the rules, you should be able to take care of yourself and your family,” he said after the bill was passed.
Other topics he touched on included the environment, affordable housing, immigration, and racial discrimination and profiling.
Kameela Hall ’18 said Bonta addressed many important and eye opening topics throughout his discussion, and was very keen to share the solutions and positive future for the Bay Area. “Mr. Bonta’s key points encouraged me to become more involved in the creation of solutions and new ideas for our community,” she said.
Last year, Bonta co-authored a bill (AB 953) with Assemblymember Shirley Weber that seeks to eliminate racial profiling by requiring the establishment of a uniform system for collecting and analyzing data on law enforcement-community interactions, and establishing an advisory board to investigate profiling patterns and practices and provide recommendations on how to curb its harmful impact.
He is currently working on a bill that would require the state to come up with a plan to provide free, universal higher education to all Californians “just as we do at the K-12 level.”
Bonta acknowledges his efforts aren’t always embraced by all. “Controversy comes with the territory. It’s a place I’m happy to be if it’s doing the right thing,” he said.
Bonta said he always had a desire to serve due, in large, part, to his parents’ commitment to social justice. His father was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and stood with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., marching for equality and justice in Selman. His mother was and continues to be a long-time leader in the Filipino social justice movement.
Bonta grew up in a trailer just a few hundred yards from César Chávez’s home and watched as his parents organized Filipino and Mexican American farm workers.
As a result, one of the first bills Bonta introduced upon being elected to the Assembly required the contributions of Filipinos to the farm labor movement – which have been historically underemphasized – to be taught in schools.
Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Bonta worked as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, and served on the Alameda City Council and as Vice Mayor of the City of Alameda.
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.