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Yee aims to widen online registration’s reach

Hot from the resounding success of the online voter registration system his legislation enabled, a Bay Area lawmaker now wants to expand that system’s reach.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, today introduced a bill that would put a link to the online registration system run by the Secretary of State on every state government website.

“The use of online voter registration was overwhelming, but we need to continue to find new ways to get as many citizens as possible involved in our democracy,” Yee said in a news release. “When Californians access their state government via the internet, we should encourage them to vote and have their voice heard at the ballot box.”

“There are more than 5 ½ million eligible Californians who are not registered to vote. Senate Bill 44 will help us reach these individuals and significantly increase the voter rolls.”

The new system, which went live in September, let nearly 800,000 Californians register online to vote in November’s election, helping to boost the state’s registered voters to a record 18.25 million and – some believe – contributing to Democrats’ success in reaching legislative supermajorities.

Yee cited early numbers showing that those who registered to vote using the new online system were significantly more likely to cast a ballot in the November election.

According to Political Data Inc. (PDI), turnout was 84.7 percent in Sacramento County from those who registered online – 10 percentage points higher than the county average. In Orange County, those who registered online turned out at 82 percent versus the county average of 72 percent. Fresno County saw an even larger uptick in turnout among those who registered online: 78.2 percent, versus the county average of only 63.8 percent. Figures for other counties are still being collected.

“Not only were we able to increase turnout among those who registered online, but we significantly increased participation among young people and first time voters,” said Yee.

UPDATE @ 4:19 P.M. THURSDAY: A quick clarification and amplification – these comparisons in Sacramento, Orange and Fresno counties are between those who registered online between Sept. 19 (when the new system went live) and Oct. 22 and all other voters in those counties regardless of when they registered. The turnout rates are much closer if you compare those who registered online during those few final weeks and those who registered on paper during the same time period. Also, it’s worth noting that while Yee sponsored the legislation authorizing the new system, it was Secretary of State Debra Bowen who secured federal funding and built a successful system in only about nine months, a very short time by state IT project standards.

Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, Debra Bowen, Leland Yee, Secretary of State, voter registration | 2 Comments »

State senators seek campaign finance reform

A pair of state Senators intend to introduce bills to beef up California’s laws requiring disclosure of political contributions.

State senators Leland Yee, D-San Francsico, and Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said they’re still finalizing the exact language of their two bills, they plan to increase penalties for failing to properly disclose campaign contributions, require greater disclosure of funding sources on mass mailings and media advertisements, and close a loophole that lets some nonprofits finance campaigns without naming their donors.

As an example of that loophole, they cited the $11 million contribution made in October by Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership to oppose Proposition 30 and support Proposition 32 on last month’s ballot. It took a lawsuit filed by the state’s Fair Political Practices Committee to win disclosure of the money’s true donors.

“Laundering money through nonprofits in an attempt to avoid transparency is fundamentally undemocratic,” Yee said in a news release today. “Our democracy should not be bought and sold in shady backroom deals. The California Disclose Act will close this loophole and ensure that Californians are well aware of who is funding campaigns and ballot measures.”

Ted Lieu“As alert voters were chagrined to learn, last-minute donations from what essentially were anonymous special interests was a blatant attempt to unfairly shape election results,” said Lieu. “This must stop.”

Good-government groups already are lining up behind the senators’ bills.

“With these proposals, California will continue to lead the country in campaign finance disclosure,” California Common Cause policy advocate Phillip Ung said in Yee’s news release. “These bills show policymakers are listening to voters’ demands and the Legislature will take action to shine a light on the interests behind campaign laundering schemes.”

Jennifer Waggoner, president of the League of Women Voters of California, said voters’ trust in government is eroded when they can’t see behind big donations from special interests. “Effective regulation of money in politics ensures the public’s right to know and promotes confidence in the political process.”

Posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Under: California State Senate, campaign finance, Leland Yee, Ted Lieu | 4 Comments »

Gay Scout to be honored Monday by Assembly

California Assembly Speaker John Perez will recognize and honor Ryan Andresen – the East Bay Boy Scout who was denied his Eagle rank because he’s gay – at the new Assembly’s opening session Monday in Sacramento.

Andresen, now 18, of Moraga, and his parents also are scheduled to meet with supporters including Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Boy Scouts of America this summer re-affirmed its national policy of barring openly gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from leadership. Andresen came out as gay, and though he had participated in Scouting for 12 years and satisfied all of the many requirements to attain its highest rank, Troop 212′s leaders denied him his Eagle award. The local council subsequently kicked him out of Scouting entirely.

His mother, Karen Andresen, started a Change.org petition which has been signed by almost 428,000 people urging the troop’s leaders to ignore BSA’s policy and give Andresen the award he earned.

Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, John Perez, Leland Yee, Nancy Skinner | 8 Comments »

110,000 register to vote online in first week

About 110,000 Californians registered to vote online during the first week they could.

The state’s online voter registration system went live last Wednesday as a result of SB 397 by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, which was signed into law last October by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said today she’s “thrilled to see the high volume,” but it’s part of the usual presidential-year deluge. “At this time four years ago, we received as many as 191,000 paper registration applications in a single week just at the Secretary of State’s office – that’s not counting the 58 county offices,” she said.

Still, Yee said in a news release today that he’s “ecstatic with the popularity of this new voter registration system.”

“It is a game-changer for our democracy,” he said. “While some states are suppressing the rights of voters, here in California we are significantly increasing participation.”

A slew of Republican-dominated states have enacted voter ID laws in recent years. Supporters say they’re meant to reduce the chance of in-person voting fraud, although there are extremely few documented cases of such fraud; critics say they’re meant to disenfranchise poor, disabled, minority and other voters who are likely to vote Democratic.

Yee said California’s new law already is saving county election offices thousands of dollars: “Election clerks do not have to spend as much time and money entering data from paper registrations, which also results in fewer administrative errors.”

The new system lets citizens whose signature is already on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles submit their voter registration form to their county elections office electronically.

Only 44 percent 59 percent of eligible California citizens voted in the 2008 presidential election. Even now, more than 6.5 million Californians are eligible to vote but remain unregistered.

The deadline to register to vote in this November’s election is Monday, Oct. 22.

Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, Debra Bowen, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee, voter registration | 18 Comments »

Yee’s SB 249 ‘bullet button’ ban looks dead

A bill to close what the author says is a loophole in California’s assault weapons law appears dead for this legislative session after a key committee decided to hold it.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee was to have heard SB 249 by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, on Thursday. This Friday, Aug. 17, is the deadline for fiscal committees to meet and report bills to the floor; Friday, Aug. 31 will be the deadline for each house to pass bills, after which the Legislature will recess.

“I am deeply disappointed that the bill is being held by the Appropriations Committee,” Yee said in a news release. “My greatest fear is that another senseless act of violence will happen before the loophole is closed. Despite the gun lobby’s efforts to derail common sense legislation, I will not give up this fight.”

California already has the nation’s strictest assault-weapons law, but Yee offered this bill in May to tighten it a bit further.

The state already bans ammunition magazines that can be removed from a gun simply by pressing a button, when used on guns with features such as a pistol grip or telescoping stock; the intent is to slow reloading of such weapons. But gun makers created new mechanisms so magazines can be removed in seconds using the tip of a bullet, or in some cases, by placing a small magnet over a “bullet button.”

Yee’s bill initially sought to ban this, but he had watered it down as other lawmakers balked at taking on the gun lobby. After the Colorado movie-theater shooting, however, Yee saw resurgent interest in the bill; he announced last week that he was re-amending it to its original goal, with a new endorsement from state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

“When California enacted our assault weapon law there was no intention of allowing such easily changeable magazines on military style weapons,” Yee said today. “It is imperative that we close this loophole as soon as possible, either through legislation or new regulations at the Department of Justice.”

Posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 8 Comments »

Yee: Colo. massacre underscores need for gun bill

State Sen. Leland Yee quickly linked this morning’s massacre at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater to his own bill to change California’s assault-weapons policy:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this horrific tragedy and their families. These events are shocking to all of us and sadly remind us of the carnage that is possible when assault weapons get into the wrong hands. It is imperative that we take every step possible to eliminate the types of senseless killings witnessed in Aurora, Colorado. We must limit access to weapons that can carry massive rounds of bullets or that can be easily reloaded. SB 249 is a step in that direction and should be approved by the Legislature as soon as possible.”

Yee’s SB 249 would close what the San Francisco Democrat calls a loophole in the state’s assault-weapons law, already among the nation’s most stringent.

Magazines that can be removed by a normal push button, in combination with features such as a pistol grip and telescoping stock, are banned by California law; the law essentially requires that magazines be fixed, or removed or replaced with the use of a tool, in order to slow down the reloading process.

In an apparent effort to get around the law, gun makers have created a new mechanism that lets the magazine be easily removed by the tip of a bullet or in some cases by just putting a small magnet over the “bullet button,” basically recreating a normal push-button and letting magazines be changed within seconds. Yee’s bill, now pending before the Assembly Appropriations Committee, would prohibit this.

The alleged gunman in Colorado reportedly was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun and a Glock handgun.

Posted on Friday, July 20th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 16 Comments »

Yee introduces bill to ban ‘bullet buttons’

A Bay Area lawmaker introduced a bill today to close a loophole in the state’s assault-weapons law allowing “bullet-button” semiautomatic rifles that reload in an instant.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, gutted and amended SB 249 to carry the legislation, and expects it will be considered by the Legislature next month.

“There is absolutely no reason why these military style weapons need to have such easily changeable magazines,” Yee said in a news release. “While most gun owners are law abiding, I am deeply concerned with these assault weapons getting into the wrong hands, resulting in mass casualties of civilians or law enforcement officers.”

Magazines that can be removed by a normal push button, in combination with features such as a pistol grip and telescoping stock, are banned by California law; the law essentially requires that magazines be fixed, or removed or replaced with the use of a tool, in order to slow down the reloading process.

In an apparent effort to get around the law, gun makers have created a new mechanism that lets the magazine be easily removed by the tip of a bullet or in some cases by just putting a small magnet over the “bullet button,” basically recreating a normal push-button and letting magazines be changed within seconds.

“These conversions are circumventing the spirit of California’s assault weapon statute,” said Yee. “Absent this bill, California’s assault weapon ban is practically toothless. For the safety of the general public, we must close this loophole.”

The “bullet button” controversy was brought to the fore by a recent report by CBS5. As you can see here, it’s cheap and easy to install:

Posted on Monday, May 21st, 2012
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 13 Comments »

Reactions to Obama’s same-sex marriage stance

Here’s what some of California’s state and federal elected officials are saying about President Obama’s statement today affirming support for same-sex marriage rights:

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer “This is a historic day and another step in our country’s long march toward equal rights and justice for all. The President’s statement is a milestone and so important for the millions of American families who deserve full equality. None of us can rest until marriage equality is a reality for all Americans.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi “Today marks progress for the civil rights of LGBT Americans and all Americans. With President Obama’s support, we look forward to the day when all American families are treated equally in the eyes of the law.

“Republicans are standing on the wrong side of history. Just yesterday, a Republican-backed amendment to ban same-sex marriage passed in North Carolina. Here in the House, Republican leaders refuse to bring up a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes critical domestic violence protections for the LGBT community, and they are using taxpayer funds to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act in court. These actions only serve to advance fundamental unfairness in our society.

“Throughout American history, we have worked to live up to our values of liberty and freedom, and to end discrimination in all of its forms. Today, we took another step forward in our march toward equality.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“I have never been more proud of our President than I am today. His journey to acceptance is an example of the one value we honor most in America, freedom; freedom to choose who we love, freedom to choose who we marry, freedom to choose who we partner with to raise a family. Denying the right for any two people to marry is discrimination. I can only hope the President’s personal position will swell the tide of public opinion to end prejudice against the LGBT community.”

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

John Perez “I am very proud of the President for today’s eloquent and bold announcement that he supports marriage equality for every person in this country. As with many Americans, his views on this issue have evolved towards an embrace of dignity, respect and justice for every American. Like the President’s successful effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I believe today will be remembered as a major milestone in the LGBT movement, and one that gives credence to Dr. Martin Luther King’s observation that ‘the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.’ I am deeply grateful for the President’s leadership on this fundamental issue of civil rights.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Equality before the law is a pillar of American democracy. I applaud President Obama’s support for the right of same-sex couples to marry.”

For counterpoint, here’s Alliance Defense Fund litigation staff counsel Jim Campbell:

“This shows that the Obama administration doesn’t understand the public purpose of marriage. Marriage – the lifelong, faithful union of one man and one woman – is the building block of a thriving society. It’s not something that politicians should attempt to redefine for political purposes. The president has spoken eloquently about how fatherless homes often hurt children and society. Today’s statement is a tragic contradiction that promotes the creation of even more fatherless and motherless homes.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Leland Yee, Lynn Woolsey, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, Rich Gordon, same-sex marriage, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 50 Comments »

Leland Yee introduces social media privacy act

State Sen. Leland Yee today introduced a bill to stop employers from formally requesting or demanding that workers or job applicants provide their social media usernames and passwords.

Yee, D-San Francisco, had said last week he would carry such a bill; he has expanded it to bar the practice at public and private colleges and universities as well.

The Associated Press reported last week that a growing number of businesses, public agencies and colleges around the country are asking job seekers, workers and students for their Facebook and Twitter account information. Two U.S. Senators on Sunday announced they’ll ask the Justice Department to probe whether this runs afoul of federal law.

“It is completely unacceptable for an employer or university to invade someone’s personal social media accounts,” Yee said in his news release today. “Not only is it entirely unnecessary, it is an invasion of privacy and unrelated to one’s performance or abilities.”

“These outlets are often for the purpose of individuals to share private information with their closest friends and family,” he said. “Family photos and non-work social calendars have no bearing on a person’s ability to do their job or be successful in the classroom, and therefore employers and colleges have no right to demand to review it.”

Yee’s bill also will prohibit managers from insisting that applicants or employees sit down with them to review their social media contact or demand printed copies. He’s gutting and amending SB 1349 to carry this content; that bill previously proposed technical tweaks to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act.

Posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
Under: California State Senate, Leland Yee | 1 Comment »

What they’re saying about the Prop. 8 ruling

My esteemed colleague Howard Mintz has the full story on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and you can read the opinion yourself (assuming the court’s website doesn’t get overloaded again) by clicking here.

Meanwhile, here’s a treasury of quotes from elected officials.

From House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Today’s decision is a victory for civil rights and for progress for the LGBT community and for all Californians.

“By declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, the Ninth Circuit made a strong statement that laws must not target the LGBT community for discrimination and all of our state’s families deserve to enjoy fair and equal treatment under the law.

“As this battle moves through the appeals process, we must, and will, continue the fight for the fundamental rights of LGBT couples and every American. We will keep up the charge for change and equality in state legislatures and in the courts, and work in Congress to repeal and overturn the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Together, we will make every discriminatory marriage amendment and law a thing of the past.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“The court has rendered a powerful affirmation of the right of same-sex couples to marry. I applaud the wisdom and courage of this decision.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stands as a victory for the fundamental American principle that all people are equal, and deserve equal rights and treatment under the law. This is the biggest step that the American judicial system has taken to end the grievous discrimination against men and women in same-sex relationships and should be highly praised.

“Proposition 8 has done nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that same-sex couples are inferior to heterosexual couples. These men and women are our firefighters, our paramedics, our law enforcement, our service-members, and to treat their relationships differently is unfair, unlawful, and violates the basic principle of who we are as a nation.

“Today however, it has been made clear that this type of discrimination will not be tolerated—there is no state power or law that can claim one type of love is more deserving of status and benefits than another. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has fulfilled its obligation to all Americans by protecting the fundamental right of all people to marry those whom they love. It has upheld the overall integrity of the American judicial system by placing individual characteristics of judges and justices secondary to their duty and commitment to true justice and equality.

“Although countless people have worked tirelessly to achieve this ruling, I would like to recognize the inspiring dedication demonstrated by the American Foundation for Equal Rights. They have never relented in their mission for equal marriage rights and should be highly commended for these efforts.

“While today marks a historic milestone towards equality for all Americans, our journey is not over until the highest court in the United States reaches the same decision that the Court of Appeals did today. It is on that day that the struggle for equality will be over and the dream on which this great nation was founded will become a reality.”

From state Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for fairness, a victory for equality and a victory for justice. Proposition 8 denied to gay and lesbian couples the equal protection to which all Americans are entitled. By striking this unconstitutional law from our books, the court has restored dignity, equality and respect to all Californians.”

For some counterpoint (although he’s not an elected official), here’s SaveCalifornia.com President Randy Thomasson:

“God created a man and a woman to fit together in marriage. The People of California have twice affirmed this beautiful, natural, and exclusive pro-family institution between a husband and wife, a man and a woman. The Ninth Circuit ruling to strike down man-woman marriage, by a Carter judge and a Clinton judge, is unfair to the voters, against our republic, against our democratic system, against the United States Constitution, against Nature, and against God and His beneficial design of family.

“It’s illogical and unconstitutional to claim that natural, unchangeable race and ethnicity is the same as sexual behavior. That’s not fair or true. Race and ethnicity are inherited, but science has never found homosexuality, bisexuality, or transsexuality to be inherited or unchangeable. Neither is this about commitment. As the divorce of leading anti-Prop. 8 lesbians Robin Tyler and Diane Olson demonstrates, the notion of homosexual ‘marriage’ is not really about ‘commitment,’ but is a political agenda forcing acceptance of homosexuality upon the children of America. Yet nothing is equal to marriage between a man and a woman. If you don’t have a man and a woman, you don’t have marriage.

‘Judicial activists like Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Daly Hawkins need to be reined in like Newt Gingrich has been saying about judicial activists. Marriage is not in the United States Constitution, so this case should never have gone to federal court. Now it will be appealed to the nation’s high court, with Anthony Kennedy being the deciding vote. Fortunately, in past rulings favoring homosexuality, Kennedy has written against redefining marriage, making it likely that he will affirm California’s right to reserve marriage licenses for ‘a man and a woman.’”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Assembly, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jackie Speier, Jerry Brown, Kamala Harris, Leland Yee, Mark Leno, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Nancy Skinner, same-sex marriage, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 1 Comment »