Ma is the oldest of three children born to William and Sophia Ma, both Chinese immigrants. Her grandfather, Lieutenant General Ma Zhen, was the first mayor of Kunming, Republic of China.
Born and raised in New York, she attended Baker Elementary School before graduating from Great Neck North Middle and High Schools. Growing up, she was known as a tomboy, interested in sports, Girl Scouts, and academics. Her father, Dr. William Ma, was a civil engineer who later specialized in construction claims and litigation before he retired. Her mother, Sophia (née Doo), was a high school art teacher for 20 years before moving the family to San Francisco to be closer to her parents. Rev William Doo was posted as a minister at the San Francisco Swatow Christian Church in San Francisco's Sunset District.
Fiona Ma received a bachelor's degree in accounting at Rochester Institute of Technology, a master's degree in taxation from Golden Gate University, and an MBA from Pepperdine University. She is a CPA and member of the Aspen Institute's 2009 Class of Aspen-Rodel Fellows.
She is married to Jason Hodge, a firefighter of American Indian descent.
In 1993 she worked at Ernst and Young - one of the "big six" accounting firms at the time. However, seeing few female managers and even fewer female partners during her time with the firm, she decided to start her own accounting practice with an associate.
In 1994 Fiona Ma was elected president of the Asian Business Association, which led to her first involvement with politics, lobbying San Francisco City Hall and the Sacramento State Capitol for business issues that affected women and minorities. As a result of her work on behalf of the Small Business Association at that same time, she was elected in 1995 as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business under President Bill Clinton. Fiona Ma's advocacy work in that role helped lead to socially responsible contracting for minorities and women in San Francisco, and produced a report to Congress on the 60 top policy recommendations to help small businesses grow and prosper in the 21st century.
Ma was appointed to the Assessment Appeals Board of San Francisco by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1995. That same year, she started her public service career as a part-time district representative for then-State Senator John Burton. She served as John Burton's district representative until her election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2002. She was responsible for helping constituents with Medi-Cal, Workers' Compensation, Unemployment Insurance, Franchise and Employment Development Department taxes, and professional licensing.
Ma was later elected to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors from 2002 to 2006 representing District 4, the Sunset District, Outer Sunset, Parkside, Outer Parkside, and Pine Lake Park. While serving on that board, her major legislative push was a human rights campaign to shut down massage parlors who illegally trafficked persons into the country and used them to run illegal prostitution rings. Following the passage of Proposition 209, which barred public institutions from considering sex, race or ethnicity, she led the effort to create the city's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program to enable small businesses to more easily participate in public works projects, aiming to broaden the scope of inclusion. As a Supervisor, she also started her advocacy regarding banning toxins from children's toys - passing Ordinance Number 060107 to "prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution in commerce of any toy or child-care article…if it contains bisphenol-A or other specified chemicals."
Fiona Ma was first elected to represent California’s 12th Assembly District from November 2006 to November 2012 (serving the maximum three terms). She was the 112th woman to be elected to the California legislature and the first Asian woman to serve as Speaker pro Tempore since 1850.
Ma won the Democratic nomination to represent California's 19th Assembly District against fellow Democrat Janet Reilly in the state primary election of June 6, 2006. The campaign was one of the more expensive legislative primary races in the state of California.
On November 7, 2006 Ma received 70 percent of the votes and defeated her two opponents for California Assembly, Republican Howard Epstein and Green Barry Hermanson. She replaced Leland Yee as 12th District assemblywoman. Her district included San Francisco, Daly City, Colma and Broadmoor, totaling some 420,000 constituents.
Ma was appointed Assembly majority whip by the speaker of the assembly, Fabian Núñez, a position which she held for 3 years. As Majority Whip, she marshaled votes to ensure the passage of legislation that affected public education, expanded healthcare access, and set in place environmental protections. In 2010, Speaker of the Assembly John A. Pérez appointed Ma to the leadership position of Speaker pro Tempore. As presiding officer and member of the leadership team, Ma guides assembly members through the daily business of the house, responds to parliamentary inquiries, issues rulings on points of order when necessary, and is responsible for guiding legislative priorities. Ma presided over a record-breaking 18-hour session to pass California's budget.
As an assemblywoman, Ma continued her work around toxic children's toys, authoring legislation banning toxic chemicals in products for babies and small children in assembly bill 1108. The bill came to be known as the "Rubber Duck Bill", so named because phthalates are often used in the manufacture of soft plastic toys and baby teethers. Arnold Schwarzenegger, then governor of California, signed the bill into law in October 2007; it took effect in January 2009. Ma's legislation was later incorporated into Senator Dianne Feinstein's federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 signed by President George W. Bush on August 15, 2008. She also worked on the creation of statewide high-speed rail, granting equal rights to men and women to change their last names when they are married or become domestic partners, and was a co-author of SB 840, a bill that would create a single payer universal health care system throughout California.
On November 4, 2014, Ma won election to Board of Equalization district 2. She received 1,448,657 votes to win the election by 68.5% of the vote. District 2 covers nearly 10 million people along California's coastline from Oregon to Santa Barbara.
On, February 24, 2016, at the Board of Equalization (BOE) meeting in Culver City, the Board selected Ma as its chair. As chair, Ma also sits on the California Franchise Tax Board.
The California's Board of Equalization was created by voter initiative in 1879 to "equalize" property values/taxes. The board has broad regulatory and adjudicatory powers as a state tax board. The five-member Board meets monthly and is the only elected tax board in the country. The BOE administers more than 30 tax and fee programs. During fiscal year 2014-15, the BOE generated $60.5 billion of revenue. The BOE's monthly meetings offer taxpayers and other interested parties opportunities to participate in the formulation of rules and regulations adopted by the Board.
On February 23, 2007, Ma introduced a bill which would have required commercial exhibitors of plastinated corpses to obtain a county permit, which would be dependent on proof of consent from the decedent or next of kin. It passed the Senate on August 15, 2008 and was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 26, citing a budget delay that caused him to only sign bills "that are the highest priority for California. This bill does not meet that standard and I cannot sign it at this time."
Fiona Ma has passed legislation banning toxic chemicals in plastics and children's toys As a Supervisor in San Francisco, she authored and passed Ordinance Number 060107 to "prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution in commerce of any toy or child-care article…if it contains bisphenol-A or other specified chemicals." This was the first ordinance of its time. The goal of the ordinance was to place pressure on the California State Legislature and national government to follow suit. As a California State Legislator, she continued her work, passing A.B. 1108, which also banned toxic chemicals from children's toys. Her language was later used by Senator Dianne Feinstein in the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, signed into law in 2008.
At the age of 22, Fiona Ma learned that she had Hepatitis B (HBV), a virus that causes 80 percent of all liver cancer if left untreated and often shows no symptoms until it is almost too late. Almost 1.4 million Americans are infected with HBV, and more than half are Asian Pacific Islander Americans. An estimated one in ten are chronically infected with the virus. As a result of its high Asian population, San Francisco has one of the highest rates of liver cancer in the nation, and HBV-related liver cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among API men in California.
Fiona Ma assumed a leading role in the fight against Hepatitis B, serving as a spokesperson for San Francisco Hep B Free - the largest and most intensive healthcare campaign for APIs in the United States. It is widely considered a model for the nation in eliminating HBV in a regional area.
In 2008, Fiona Ma introduced Assembly Bill 158, which would have required the Department of Health Care Services to apply for a federal waiver to expand Medi-Cal eligibility for individuals with chronic Hepatitis B. She also introduced a resolution declaring May 2009 as Hepatitis B Awareness Month in California.
Assemblymember Ma is a long time advocate of transportation solutions, the Joint author of Proposition 1-A and the convener of the High Speed Rail Caucus. Ma was one of the leading advocates of high-speed trains in California and one of its main campaigners traveling statewide promoting its environmental benefits and job creating effects . The proposition ultimately was approved by the voters in November 2008 maintaining critical funding after the Governor Schwarzenegger had proposed a major defunding of High-Speed Rail .
As the chair of the Domestic Violence Select Committee, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has worked diligently to shed light on the challenges that incarcerated victims of domestic violence experience while in the judicial system. A California prison study found that 93% of the women who had killed their significant others had been battered; 67% of these women attempted to protect themselves or their children. She has attended parole hearings to ensure survivors who have spent decades behind bars receive suitability; and also spearheaded the first legislation of its kind in the entire country, when Governor Brown signed "The Sin by Silence Bills", inspired by the documentary Sin by Silence, into law on September 30, 2012 that ensures the path to freedom for over 7,000 domestic violence survivors currently serving time in California prisons. AB 593 allows victims of domestic violence whose expert testimony was limited at their trial court proceedings to re-file for a writ of habeas corpus to allow this expert testimony to weigh in on their defense and it will also give victims more time to receive legal representation by deleting the sunset date currently in statute. AB 1593 gives victims who have suffered Intimate Partner Battering (IPB) a chance to present their evidence in an effective way during the parole process by giving great weight to any information or evidence that proves the prisoner experienced IPB and its effects at the time the crime was committed. This bill will also require that the information delivered to the Legislature relating to IPB, will be in specific and detailed reports.
Ma serves on the Board of Directors, and was a past Treasurer, for Curry Without Worry, a non-profit based in San Francisco. Since 2006, this organization has fed over 45,000 people. She is also currently on the Board of Directors of CA Women Lead and Asian Inc. She is the Honorary Chair and spokesperson of the San Francisco Hep B Free Campaign; Honorary California Chair of the New Leaders Council, Board Advisory Committee for the James L. Brady Riding Program for Children with Disabilities, Board Advisory Committee for Family Connections, President of Board of Asian American Donor Program, and Board Advisory Committee of the SF Ethnic Dance Festival.
Assemblymember Ma has been active in promoting trade and fostering relationships between California and the Nation. As an Executive Board Member of the National Conference of State Legislators, she worked to keep California competitive with other states. She also served as the Western Region Director of Women in Government, the State Legislative Leaders Council, and was an Executive Board Member of the California Democratic Party.
Since 1998, Ma has been on the forefront in promoting trade and commerce between California and Asia, leading legislative delegations to China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. She has been a frequent speaker in the region promoting US interests in high-speed rail, agriculture, entertainment and education. She has also taken the lead to welcome foreign dignitaries visiting California in her elected capacities.
She has participated in various California trade delegations and has met with legislative leaders and decision-makers in India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, France, Israel, Ireland and Iceland.
In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Assemblywoman Ma had 25 bills chaptered into law, 4 Assembly Concurrent Resolutions and 1 Assembly Joint Resolution signed by Governor Brown.
A few of the Assemblywoman's bills are as follows:
AB 74 Public event action plans and cooperative management
In response to substance abuse-related deaths, injuries and arrests involving electronic-music shows at San Francisco's Cow Palace and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Assembly voted 75-0 to support AB 74. The bill establishes safety guidelines for electronic-music concerts when they are held on publicly owned properties such as the Cow Palace, which is located in Ma's 12th Assembly District. "California needs to better monitor and control events occurring on state properties," Ma said in a news release. "AB 74 is intended to prevent the loss of life and make safety a top priority at events on state property." The law requires the state agency intending to host any rave expected to draw 10,000 people or more to assess potential problems, the need for law enforcement and medical personnel, and other related issues. If the agency concludes there's a strong possibility for loss of life or harm to participants, the show's promoter would be required to prepare a plan to provide an adequate law-enforcement presence, control drug use and potentially prohibit minors.
AB 183 (2011) Alcoholic beverage licenses: self-service checkout
This bill prohibits off-sale licensees from selling alcoholic beverages using a customer-operated checkout stand located on the licensee's physical premises. This bill makes findings and declarations regarding the effects of allowing alcoholic beverages to be sold using self-service checkouts.
AB 199 (2011) Role of Filipinos in World War II
This bill encourages social science instruction in grades 7–12 to include the role of Filipinos in World War II.
AB 300 (2011) Safe Body Art Act
This bill enacts the Safe Body Art Act providing minimum statewide standards for the regulation of individuals in the business of tattooing, body piercing, and the application of permanent cosmetics. The provisions will take effect on July 1, 2012.
AB 593 (2012) Domestic violence: battering: recall and resentencing
This bill expands the provisions allowing a habeas corpus petition in cases where intimate partner battering was not introduced into evidence to include cases where the evidence was not competent or substantial and where such evidence may have changed the sentence not just the conviction.
AB 812 (2012) Recycled asphalt
This bill authorizes the Department of Transportation to establish specifications for the use of up to 40% reclaimed asphalt pavement for hot asphalt mixes on or before January 1, 2014.
AB 907 (2012) Processors of farm products
It authorizes the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to impose sanctions three times the amount of unpaid or underpaid license fees and requires any bond or irrevocable guarantee, placed in lieu of proof of financial responsibility, to include both past and future debts owed as a requirement of obtaining a processor’s license.
AB 1593 (2012) Parole: intimate partner battering
This bill requires the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH), when reviewing a prisoner’s suitability for parole, to give great weight to any information or evidence that, at the time of the commission of the crime, the prisoner had experienced intimate partner battering and provide that they cannot use the fact that the prisoner brought in the evidence to find that a prisoner lacks insight to his or her crime.
AB 2564 (2012) Environmental quality: pipelines: project applicants
This bill expands the application of an existing California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption for pipeline projects less than one mile in length.
ACR 42 (2011) Eat Local, Buy California Grown Day
This resolution declares that Sundays are “Eat Local, Buy California Grown Day,” and encourages families, restaurants, and grocers to buy California-grown foods because supporting California-grown food products will result in higher food quality, improved food safety, and higher environmental and animal welfare standards, in addition to significant economic benefits.
In this legislative session, 19 of the Assemblywoman's bills were signed into law and 5 Assembly Concurrent Resolutions were chaptered.
A few of Assemblywoman Ma's bills are as follows:
AB 144 (2009) Vehicles: distinguishing placards and special license plates
This bill provides cities and counties with greater authority to cite disabled parking offenses with civil parking citations, sets minimum penalty amounts for these civil offenses, and extends an existing 10 percent special penalty assessment to additional criminal and civil citations.
AB 258 (2009) Domestic violence: restraining or protective order: aggressor
This bill amends Penal Code Section 836, concerning arrests in situations where mutual protective orders have been issued, to change the phrase “primary aggressor” to “dominant aggressor.”
AB 1050 (2010) Child custody: preferences of child
This bill, among other things, requires the family court to permit a child who is 14 years of age or older to address the court regarding custody or visitation unless the court determines that doing so is not in the child’s best interest, in which case the court will be required to make that finding on the record.
ACR 64 (2009) Heptatitis B
This resolution declares May 2009, to be Hepatitis B Awareness Month in California, recognizes May 19, 2009, as World Hepatitis Awareness Day, and calls on all interested parties to come together to raise awareness and educate the public on hepatitis B and to make recommendations on ways to implement best practices in hepatitis B prevention and treatment.
At the age of 22, Ma learned she had hepatitis B (HBV), a virus that causes 80% of all liver cancer if left untreated
and one that shows no symptoms until it's almost too late. Approximately 1.4 million Americans are infected with HBV, and more than half of them are Asian/Pacific Islander (API) Americans. It is estimated that 1 in 10 APIs are chronically infected with HBV. Like most APIs, Ma contracted HBV from her mother at birth via perinatal exposure. San Francisco has the highest rate of liver cancer in the nation because of its high API population, and HBV-related liver cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among API men living in California. Ma works to remove the stigma of the disease in the Asian community by actively speaking out about the importance of testing and vaccination. In 2008, Ma introduced Assembly Bill 158 which requires the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to apply for a federal waiver to expand Medi-Cal eligibility for individuals with chronic hepatitis B. AB 158 did not make it through the legislative process due to costs associated with the bill.
The resolution supports collaborating with all interested parties to raise public awareness about HBV. It also supports
the development of a comprehensive, statewide HBV prevention and treatment plan. Ma serves as unofficial chairperson for San Francisco Hep B Free - the largest, most intensive health care campaign for APIs in the U.S. and one that is looked upon as a model for the nation in eliminating HBV. In May 2010, San Francisco Hep B Free launched its controversial "Which One Deserves to Die" ad campaign which received national coverage that featured Ma in the NY Times and on CBS, ABC, PBS, NPR, Sirius Radio, and more.
ACR 70 (2009) Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month
This resolution commends Asian and Pacific Islander Americans for their notable accomplishments and outstanding service to the state; and, recognizes the month of May 2009 as Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month.
The Assemblywoman had 16 of her bills signed, 3 Assembly Concurrent Resolution, and 1 Assembly Joint Resolution chaptered.
A few of Assemblywoman Ma's bills are as follows:
AB 101 (2007) Vehicles: parking enforcement: video image evidence
This bill allows San Francisco to install automated forward facing parking control devices on city-owned public transit for the purpose of taking video images of parking violations occurring in transit-only traffic lanes.
AB 1108 (2007) Children's products: phthalates
A bill that prohibited the manufacture, sale, and distribution of toys and child care products intended for use by children under the age of three that contain toxic chemicals known as phthalates. These substances are used in soft plastic toys and other baby products such as bath books, rubber ducks, and baby teethers. Scientific research shows that these chemicals can have a negative effect on human health and may increase the risk of premature birth, early onset of puberty, lower sperm count, increased reproductive defects, and even cancer. These chemicals are already banned in 14 countries and the European Union, which has made the United States a toxic toy dumping ground. Four of the six phthalates banned in the bill have already been placed on California’s Proposition 65 list as reproductive toxins.
AB 1062 (2008) School facilities: uniform standards: solar design plans
Requires the Department of General Services' (DGS) Division of State Architect (DSA), on or before January 1, 2010, to develop uniform criteria for precheck approval process for solar design plans, including structural plans and calculations, for school facility projects' compliance with existing law and regulations
AB 1771 (2008) Domestic violence: restraining orders
This bill expressly authorizes a court in a domestic violence case to consider the underlying nature of the offense charged, and specified related information required under current law for these cases, in determining whether good cause exists to issue a protective order, as specified.
AB 3034 (2008) Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century
At the start of her first term, Assemblywoman Ma convened the bi-cameral and bi-partisan high-speed rail caucus. The caucus worked to protect and restore budget funding for the High Speed Rail Authority and fought to keep the High Speed Rail bond on the November 2008 ballot. Assemblywoman Ma joint-authored AB 3034, the Safe Reliable, High-Speed Train Bond Act for the 21st Century—Prop 1-A on the November 2008 ballot. Assemblywoman Ma was a leader in the campaign to pass Prop 1-A, which was approved with 53% of the vote. She continues to work on the effort to capture federal funding the High Speed Rail Authority.
ACR 6 (2007) Teenage dating violence
This resolution recognizes February 5 to 9, 2007, as Teenage Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week.
ACR 28 (2007) National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness
This resolution recognizes “National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness” on January 11 of each year in order to encourage greater awareness of human trafficking and all other forms of modern-day slavery.
Standing Committees:Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review
Committee on Agriculture
Committee on Appropriations
Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media
Committee on Business and Professions
Committee on Governmental Organization
Committee on Health
Committee on Higher Education
Committee on Housing and Community Development
Committee on Labor and Employment
Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security
Committee on Public Safety
Committee on Revenue and Taxation
Committee on Utilities and Commerce
Select Committees:Chair, Select Committee on Domestic Violence
Select Committee on Alcohol And Drug Abuse
Select Committee on Foster Care
Select Committee on Preservation of California’s Entertainment Industry
Select Committee on Rail Transportation
Select Committee on Regional Approaches To Addressing The State's Water Crisis
Select Committee on Safety And Protection Of At-Risk Communities In California
Joint Committees:Joint Committee on Fairs, Allocation, and Classification
Joint Committee for the Protection of Lake Tahoe