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Rob Bonta confirmed as California Attorney General

The state legislature on Thursday confirmed Democratic congressman Rob Bonta as California attorney general, backing the appointment of a criminal justice reform advocate who told his colleagues in this week’s hearings that ‘He would hold law enforcement responsible for excessive force and other misconduct.

Bonta, 49, will be the first Filipino American to be the state’s chief cop when he is sworn in as head of the Justice Department in a ceremony Friday. He was previously the first Filipino American to sit in the state assembly when he was elected in 2012 representing a district in the East Bay area that also includes Oakland and San Leandro.

“The Assemblyman Bonta will bring his passion for justice and concern for people to all aspects of this important work,” Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said during the indoor debate ahead of the vote. confirmation 29-6.

Bonta was moved as he thanked his colleagues in the Assembly, where the vote was a 62-0 bipartite.

“I am extremely honored, deeply grateful and very, very honored,” Bonta said. “I am clear on the challenges that await the State of California, the Department of Justice.”

The seasoned lawmaker brings with him a legislative record of promoting significant changes to the criminal justice system, including proposals to end cash bail in many cases and abolish the death penalty, as well as legislation. adopted phasing out the use of private prisons and the detention of migrants. centers.

“The California DOJ must be an organization that infuses more justice, more humanity, more fairness and more security into our institutions,” Bonta told the Senate Rules Committee in a confirmation hearing Wednesday. .

“There are still too many people who are wronged in California,” he added, noting those who are victims of human trafficking, corporate mismanagement, hate crimes and “too many people who are treated unfairly by the many broken parts of the criminal justice system who deserve more justice, more humanity and a second chance. “

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Bonta for the post last month to fill the post created when Xavier Becerra was appointed by President Biden to become U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Newsom had come under pressure from leaders in Asia and the Pacific Islands who supported Bonta as the ideal person to fight a recent increase in violence against Asian Americans. Last month, a white gunman in the Atlanta area reportedly killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent.

The legislature upheld Bonta’s appointment just two days after a jury convicted former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, who is white, of the murder of George Floyd, a black man, as he pressed his knee into the Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.

“Clearly, police reform and restorative justice are needed more than ever,” Senate Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said during the confirmation hearing.

MP Reggie Jones Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) cited recent fatal police shootings as saying Bonta will have an important role to play in holding law enforcement officials accountable when they use excessive force.

“We rely heavily on the Attorney General to serve as the support and final arbiter for law enforcement abuse or misconduct,” Sawyer told Bonta. “Too many Californians are dying or having their lives changed forever by the actions of bad law enforcement officials.”

Bonta, an Alameda Bay Area resident, said the creation of a new unit of investigators and prosecutors to investigate the fatal shootings of civilians by police is “one of the most important things. important things that the Attorney General will do ”.

The new unit is mandated by legislation backed by Bonta that was enacted last year.

“We are in a racial justice calculation and a calculation of how we police,” he told lawmakers, adding that “we need to restore trust between law enforcement and communities.” .

MP Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) questioned Bonta’s decision to draft a bill ending cash bail for numerous crimes after state voters rejected another reform bill of bail last year, and his support for the governor’s moratorium on executions despite voters upholding the death penalty.

“How can Californians be confident that you will respect their voices and not crush them with your desk?” Lackey asked.

Bonta said his new bail reform bill contained proposals that were not part of the law overturned by Proposition 25.

He called the death penalty “racist” and said it was not a deterrent to crime.

“The death penalty is in my opinion inhuman,” he said.

Bonta said he recognized that as the state’s principal lawyer, he had an obligation to act in accordance with the state’s constitution, but also said he “would also identify an appropriate avenue for a reform which conforms to my responsibility and my duties ”.

The former member of the assembly said he also supports the consideration of ideas, including amending laws on police immunity and revoking the certification of those who commit wrongdoing so that they are not fired from a job but hired by another law enforcement agency.

Bonta told lawmakers he is also very concerned about an increase in hate crimes against community members of Asian and Pacific Island Americans.

He was accompanied to the Senate confirmation hearing by his wife, Mialisa, who is running for her seat in the assembly, as well as his parents, who worked for the United Farm Workers when Bonta was a child.

Dozens of people testified in support of Bonta’s appointment, including labor and civil rights leaders and advocates for criminal justice reform.

His confirmation hearing drew opposition from Sam Paredes, executive director of the Gun Owners of California group, who also spoke on behalf of the National Rifle Assn.

“We know we cannot stop it,” Peredes told the Senate committee. “The story is, we’ve had a pretty controversial legislative relationship throughout his career when it comes to gun control issues.”

Senate Republicans Patricia Bates of Laguna Niguel and Shannon Grove of Bakersfield abstained from voting after questioning Bonta with questions about the state gun laws he supported.

Grove said some of the laws are onerous for law-abiding gun owners, while criminals continue to commit violence.

“They’re just going to hurt or restrict law-abiding citizens,” Grove told Bonta.

Bonta, who as attorney general will have to defend several gun laws challenged in court by the NRA, said he supports “common sense” gun safety laws to save lives.

“I have problems with mass-slaughtered children in schools,” Bonta replied to Grove. “And I think it’s important that we see that as the problem.”

Bonta also assured Republican lawmakers he would work to reduce the persistent backlog of criminals who have guns that should have been confiscated.

More than four hours of confirmation hearings were held on Capitol Hill on Wednesday by the Senate Rules Committee and the Special Assembly Committee on the Office of the Attorney General.

The position of state attorney general has an annual salary of $ 182,189, and Bonta faces a host of challenges in taking on the job.

As attorney general, Bonta will be tasked with implementing the bill he voted for last year that requires the DOJ to investigate fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians. The attorney general’s office has estimated that the law will require around 40 investigations each year, with the office also prosecuting cases in which criminal acts are found.

At the county level, Bonta also called for a warrant for prosecutors to recuse themselves from investigating law enforcement misconduct if their election campaigns included contributions from law enforcement unions.

Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Bonta was 2 months old when he immigrated to California with his parents, missionaries turned union organizers in the United States.

He graduated from Yale Law School. Bonta served as the Assistant City of San Francisco Attorney and Private Counsel prior to his election to the Assembly.

Bonta faces a brief turnaround before having to campaign to keep the post in the 2022 election. His Assembly re-election campaign has $ 2.3 million he can spend on his first campaign in the entire country. ‘State.

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