Did state Senate Democratic leaders call Sen. Leland Yee on the carpet behind closed doors last week after Yee spoke out against their proposal to water down the California Public Records Act?
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he didn’t dress down Yee; Yee won’t say. But two reliable sources – a good-government policy advocate I talked with last week at Netroots Nation, and a State Capitol expert I talked with today – say that’s exactly what happened.
They said Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was none too pleased that Yee, D-San Francisco, spoke with me on Friday, June 14 as Thomas Peele and I prepared an article about the budget trailer bills that would’ve let local governments opt out of key parts of the public-records law.
Bad blood between Steinberg and Yee reportedly dates back to their Assembly days, as both jockeyed for leadership positions and influence. In the Senate, Steinberg has stripped Yee’s name from a few bills in recent years – including a 2009 bill to restore funding for domestic violence shelters and a 2010 bill providing relief after the San Bruno explosion – and stripped Yee of his title as assistant pro tem in 2010, in part because Yee opposed the Dems’ budget deal.
So Yee’s public criticism of Steinberg, Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno and other Democrats who’d voted to water down the Public Records Act shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Steinberg and other Dems reportedly were miffed nonetheless that Yee had hung them out to dry in public.
“God forbid you vote your conscience and then tell people why,” said the State Capitol expert I talked with today, noting that it would’ve been foolish for anyone to think Yee – a longtime government-transparency activist who’s running for Secretary of State next year – would either vote for the bill or remain silent about it afterward if called by a reporter.
Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund said no caucus meeting was convened for the purpose of dressing down Yee; when I asked whether Yee was dressed down during a caucus meeting that was convened for some other purpose, he replied with a simple, “No.”
“Senate Democrats all strongly support the Public Records Act. That support has never waned,” Hedlund said. “What we now have is a fair compromise that offers a short-term solution, while allowing the people of California to constitutionally enshrine CPRA protections and to ensure that state taxpayers don’t pay for what local governments should be doing on their own.”