Bonta scores some successes in first year at statehouse

Bonta scores some successes in first year at statehouse

Michele Ellson

Updated at 8:57 a.m. Thursday, October 24

Assemblyman Rob Bonta closed his first session in the statehouse with new laws that benefit public unions facing contract impasses, allow green card holders to work the polls and ensure Californians do more to learn about and honor Filipino Americans. But other efforts, including a bill to require the state’s prisons to provide condoms to inmates, were dealt a gubernatorial veto.

Governor Jerry Brown signed eight of the 21 bills that Alameda’s former vice mayor put forward during his first session in the state Assembly, and vetoed three. Others were pulled by Bonta or stalled in legislative committees.

"This was an incredibly exciting year to be a newly elected member of the California State Legislature. Overall, I feel it was a tremendously productive year for the state and for our Assembly district, in particular," said Bonta, who represents Alameda, Oakland and San Leandro. State lawmakers put a new school funding program in place this year that is expected to direct more money toward lower-income communities and schools serving large numbers of English learners, he said, along with a new health care exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act and minimum wage increases that will make California's minimum the highest in the nation. They were also not, for the first time in recent memory, in a position where they were forced to make massive budget cuts.

Bonta said he feels he made "significant progress" on priorities that include schools, jobs and safety.

Bonta scored a legislative success with a bill that would allow legal permanent residents who are not yet American citizens to work the polls on election days, which he had said would both improve access for voters who speak limited or no English and help elections officials who sometimes go begging for staffing assistance.

He also won approval of a bill sponsored by a trio of large public employee unions that would require ratification or rejection of tentative contract deals within 30 days and would strengthen arbitration by prohibiting court hearings on procedural challenges to its use. (The new law wouldn’t have impacted labor disputes between BART and AC Transit workers and their managers, a Bonta staffer said; transit workers bargain under different rules than other public employees.)

Another pair of Bonta bills signed by Brown would require the state’s curriculum to include lessons about the contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement – a movement his family was heavily involved in – and would designate October as Filipino American History Month.

Bonta’s gun control bills met with less success. Brown vetoed a bill that would have allowed Oakland city officials to enact more stringent gun licensing and registration requirements than the state has, saying that while he’s aware Oakland’s challenges in addressing gun violence, allowing cities to enact their own laws “will sow confusion and uncertainty.”

“While I am disappointed that Governor Brown vetoed AB 180, I will continue to fight for Oakland to address the unacceptably high level of gun violence that is severely damaging our community,” Bonta was quoted as saying in a statement on Brown’s veto of the bill.

Two more bills – one to implement a tax on the sale of ammunition that would fund school-based mental health services and another requiring gun buyers to be notified in writing about the state’s gun laws – stalled in committee in May. But the governor signed a bill Bonta coauthored with Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which will ban the purchase or possession of kits that allow owners to convert guns into assault-style weapons – one of a blizzard of bills he coauthored during his first year in the Assembly.

His efforts to improve youths’ access to mental health services – spread across a pair of bills – also met with limited success. Brown signed a bill suggested by Oakland high school students that requires the state’s superintendent of public instruction to post a list of resources for students affected by gangs and gun violence online, and vetoed another that would have pumped money into some of those same services.

Several other bills stalled out earlier in the legislative process, though some could be revived. A bill that would have grandfathered in split roll school parcel taxes like Alameda Unified’s Measure H –which was the subject of a lawsuit that could see the school district providing up to $7 million in refunds – never received a committee hearing, and another bill that would require hospitals to offer patients a flu vaccine before they are discharged was held in committee. But a bill that would require some payments to teachers’ retirement fund to be used to strengthen the fund will return for consideration during the next legislative session.

The legislative session closed on September 13, and Brown had a month to decide whether to sign or veto bills. Most of the laws will go into effect on January 1, and the new legislative session begins on January 6.


Submitted by Angry Former BA... (not verified) on Thu, Oct 24, 2013

From the Daily Review:
Local politicians shilled for the unions, pushing the district to give more with little or no regard for the cost.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, was the worst. Other shameless meddlers included Assembly members Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, and Bill Quirk, D-Hayward. Then there were Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who can't manage her own city's finances, and her deputy, former Assemblyman Sandré Swanson.

Submitted by newly anti-Bonta (not verified) on Thu, Oct 24, 2013

Like the previous commenter, this article really bugs the crap out of me. How about representing Alameda ? Do you think your constituents feel that public employee unions are getting hosed and need more protection ? I really doubt it. I have no doubt Bonta was in favor of the crappy (to BART and the public) settlement that was done with the BART untions, where they basically caved on everything. Yeah - they really need more power. This Alameda resident will not be voting for Bonta again.

Submitted by Bonta D-SEIU (not verified) on Fri, Oct 25, 2013

Way to go, Bonta! Put the interests of the SEIU and ATU ahead of your constituents. One term.