Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta previewed
legislation Monday to reform the state’s bail system
and protect immigrants.

The state is paying more than $4.5 million per day to jail suspects yet to be sentenced for crimes, many of who cannot afford bail. A forthcoming bill to be introduced by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta will seek to reform the money bail system in the state, he announced Monday. Appearing with Southern California state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, Bonta said both houses of the Legislature will tackle the issue that disproportionately affects the poor.

“This is a bicameral lift to help our criminal justice system more just and to end a practice that for too long in California where we punish poor people simply for being poor,” said Bonta at a press conference in Sacramento. “And that is fundamentally wrong to base our justice system on how much money is in your pocket.”

Bonta, in an interview last month, described bail reform as one of his signature issues for the 2017 legislative calendar. Details about the exact language of the bills are expected to be hashed out over much of the early legislative session.

An estimated 63 percent of those current jailed are in pre-trial status and yet to be convicted of the alleged crime. “Because you’re in jail, you can’t show up for work, said Bonta. “You could lose your home or apartment because you can’t afford payments. You could even possibly lose your children.”

At roughly $100 per day to jail a suspect, Bonta believes reforming the bail system will free up millions better spent on education, health care and law enforcement, among other uses.

Other social justice issues dominated the first day of the legislative session, in addition, to several acknowledgements of the tragic Oakland warehouse fire that killed at least 36 people last weekend.

The Assembly concluded its session Monday with a moment of silence for those lost in the Oakland fire. In the state Senate, Nancy Skinner remembered the victims of the tragedy and their families. A formal adjournment in their memory will occur in January, she said.

Perhaps, demonstrating Bonta’s growing stature in Sacramento, he previewed legislation aimed to curtail President-elect Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during a joint press conference Monday with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon.

Recounting his mother’s immigration to the U.S. and his own as an infant from the Philippines, Bonta said Assembly Bill 3 aims to greater educate public defenders across the state on immigration law and policy and funding more to their ranks.

A single misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant could spell deportation, said Bonta, and public defenders are likely the first and last lawyer a defendant will come across. The legislation could cost upwards of $10 million to fund, said Bonta, but he cautioned the bill is still a work in progress.

A strong and concerted response by state Democrats to Trump’s stated intention of deporting, what he claims is three million undocumented immigrants having committed crimes, highlighted much of the first day of the new session.

“Make no mistake the stakes are extremely high,” Bonta said, referring to immigrants and the incoming Trump administration. He labeled the president-elect’s comments about immigrants as a “witch hunt against a quarter of our population.”

Two resolutions meant to defy Trump’s heated anti-immigrant comments passed the Assembly and state Senate Monday with opposition from Republicans who urged for a more cautious approach.

East Bay Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) said the resolution is not a partisan attack, but intended “simply to heal hurts.”

“We all know and we’re always taught our words matter,” said Thurmond. “It’s worse if the words come from the leader of the free world.”

A sense of pomp and circumstance also pervaded the capitol. Bonta was sworn-in for a third term in the Assembly, along with other re-elected East Bay legislators, including Assemblymembers Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), Catharine Baker (R-Walnut Creek) and Thurmond.

After a two-year absence former Assemblymember, now newly-elected State Sen. Nancy Skinner, took the oath of office, replacing the termed out Loni Hancock in the ninth district. State Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) was also sworn-in for his first full-term in the seventh district after winning a special election in 2015.