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Political Philosophy for Leland Y. Yee
Leland Yee: Making an Impact
REFORMING THE UC & CSU SYSTEMS
In the wake of recent events unfolding in the city of Bell, where public officials enriched themselves at taxpayer expense, Californians are beginning to demand an ever increasing amount of information from various levels of government. Access to information allows the public to gain a better understanding of how effectively these institutions operate on their behalf. The timing of this renewed focus on government could not be better in this era of limited financial resources and budget deficits.
Bell is not the only government agency that has operated in the shadows. Sarah Palin's private speaking fees and the controversy that followed is just the latest event to take advantage of this corrupt practice that is hurting higher education in California.
That's why Leland Yee wrote SB 330, to put an end to these backroom deals and ensure that campus auxiliaries and foundations adhere to the public records act.
If we don't act, we'll continue to see more scandals. At Sonoma State, an auxiliary board member was given a series of personal loans totaling over $2 million after resigning from the board. That former board member filed for bankruptcy and defaulted on the loan, depriving students of hundreds thousands of dollars in lost scholarships and grant funds.
Just recently reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, CSU's Chief Financial Officer acknowledged that public and private dollars have been mixed, so much so that the CSU can't tell the difference. In an effort to avoid further scrutiny and possible legislative audit, CSU officials urged their staff to "clean up any mess before it gets to be bigger" by sweeping the problem under the rug.
According to the California State University, campus auxiliaries now account for 20 percent of the entire CSU budget.
Leland Yee's SB 330 is on the Governor's desk again, giving him a second chance to do the right thing and sign this important good-government bill. Sign up here to help.
A lot of Sacramento politicians have their ideas about what's wrong with our public school system: not enough charter schools, ineffective teachers, and more standardized testing are the most popular ones that pervade the discourse. But Leland Yee recognizes the elephant in the room when it comes to education reform--the need to prioritize our schools in the state budget.
Beginning in 1998, voters in California have insisted that funding for public schools should be the number one priority of lawmakers. Yet time and time again, Governors and legislators try to undermine the will of the people. Despite the state's constitutional guarantee for stable and sufficient education funding, known as Proposition 98, lawmakers of both parties have attempted - and sometimes succeeded - raiding critical classroom dollars, forcing our children to bear the brunt of the budget deficit. To that end, Leland Yee says "no."
If we ever want to reform our educational system so that it works for all students, we need to stop cutting funding for our classrooms. Leland Yee understands this and has consistently voted against cuts to education funding. Yee understands that unless we honor Proposition 98 by fully funding education, any other "reforms" are just window dressing that masks the true problem. How can we expect our teachers to succeed if their classes are too large or they don't have the resources to pay for instructional materials? How can struggling students catch up if after-school programs are cut? When teachers are laid off and schools are closed, what impact does that have on our students?
Take the Governor's most recent budget proposal; it would be disastrous for our local schools. The Governor's budget would cut over $12 million in direct classroom support and renege on a prior agreement with schools costing another $4.3 million. Couple that with other cuts to education and that's nearly a $20 million loss for our local schools. That means larger classes, fewer books, older computers, fewer after school programs and less opportunity for our children.
SAVING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTERS
For the last two years, Governor Schwarzenegger has eliminated all the funding for domestic violence shelters across California. This unconscionable act has put thousands of women and children at terrible and unnecessary risk.
Victims of domestic violence find themselves in desperate situations + often with no place to go and only the safe-haven of the shelters to protect themselves from additional violence. Even before the Governor's cuts, over 44,000 Californians in the last six years were turned away due to lack of space and forced to return home to life-threatening situations.
In 2008 alone, 99 women were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends. Law enforcement received 166,343 domestic violence calls + 65,219 involved weapons such as firearms and knives.
For the past two years, Leland Yee has led the Save Our Shelters Coalition that has put a stop to Governor Schwarzenegger's wrong-headed cuts and restored full funding to California's shelters + saving the lives of countless women and children.
The fight is not over + as Governor Schwarzenegger is once again trying to balance the state budget on the backs of battered and abused women and children. Help us stop him again. Your signature and support could mean the difference in saving someone's life or protecting them from violence and abuse.
REGULATING VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
As parents, we know that ultra-violent video games have gotten out of hand. They degrade women. They stereotype minorities, reward virtual criminal behavior and glorify physical and sexual violence. Given all that, should we leave it up to video game stores to decide whether these violent video games end up in the hands of our children?
That's why Leland Yee fought the $31 billion video game industry to pass a landmark law that makes it a crime to sell adult games to minors. Yee's law, similar to legislation proposed at the federal level by Senator Hillary Clinton, imposes a $1,000 fine for the sale of games rated Mature - usually featuring ultra violence and x-rated sexual content - to minors. As a child psychologist, Yee believes that video game violence - where children are active participants, not simply passive observers - has a dramatic impact on our children. Over 90% of kids aged 2 to 17 regularly play video games.
Yee's law defines violent video games as any game in which a player kills, maims, dismembers or sexually assaults an image of a human being. Supported by the Girl Scouts of America and national mental health organizations, it was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger. It is currently being contested at the U.S. Supreme Court by the video game industry.
As a lead author of San Francisco's landmark "Sunshine Ordinance," Leland Yee has fought for expanding the public's access to their government. Yee spearheaded the creation of the Senate Select Committee on California's Public Records and Open Meeting Laws to examine deficiencies in California's transparency laws. For his work in this area, Yee has been awarded the Freedom of Information Award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Champion of Journalism Education Award by the California Journalism Education Coalition, and the Beacon Award by the First Amendment Coalition.
When the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the UC Regents were approving exorbitant raises behind closed doors without public notice or scrutiny, Senator Yee introduced and passed SB 190, also known as the Higher Education Governance Accountability Act. Signed by the Governor in late 2007, the bill requires the UC Board of Regents to vote on executive compensation increases in open and public meetings.
Yee has also fought for greater protections for state whistle blowers who experience retaliation for reporting waste, fraud, and abuse. In 2007, Yee authored SB 1505 which would have extended whistle blower protections to former state employees who report wrongdoing after they leave public service. In 2010, Yee successfully passed SB 650 which overturned a damaging California Supreme Court decision that denied whistle blowers at UC the same protections as their counterparts at the CSU.
But perhaps the biggest unturned stone in state government remains public university "auxiliary organizations"--non-profit entities controlled by university officials that provide government services like parking, housing, and scholarships. Although these entities look, feel, and smell like the university itself, due to a legal technicality, they are exempt from most state transparency laws which has resulted in various instances of cronyism and corruption at our public universities. Most recently, the CSU Stanislaus Foundation was able to hide the exorbitant speaking fee paid to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
For two years, Yee has championed a common-sense reform by requiring auxiliary organizations to adhere to the California Public Records Act. Both legislative efforts (SB 218 in 2009 and SB 330 in 2010) received strong bipartisan support and positive editorials from throughout the state. SB 330 is currently awaiting action by the Governor to become law.
While a working mother on CalWORKS or disabled senior receiving in-home supportive services has to jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops just to receive minimal life-sustaining benefits, a Wall Street bank or big corporation looking for a California tax credit can get one without any questions. Tax credits for corporations are typically justified by claiming they will create jobs and fuel economic development. Yet, under existing law, it is nearly impossible to track which companies are receiving tax credits and if those subsidies are meeting the job creation goals. Corporations are even permitted to take California taxpayer's money and relocate to other states.
Many corporations receive major credits and exemptions from dozens of state tax laws. In fact, the tax credits passed in September 2008 and February 2009 will cost the state $8.7 billion in lost revenue from 2008-09 to 2014-15 and an ongoing $2-2.5 billion yearly. These corporate giveaways come after over $60 billion in cuts over the past 5 years, cuts that were mainly directed at social safety net programs.
Unlike all other budget programs, tax expenditures are not required to be reviewed annually. There exists little spending control; there is no definition of problems or goals before a tax expenditure is created; there are numerous opportunities for tax evasion; and it is difficult to scale back or eliminate tax expenditure programs because it requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature, while only a majority vote is required to create such a credit.
Leland Yee knows that, particularly in this difficult economy, we must scrutinize every dollar spent, particularly dollars that are given to big businesses without adequate transparency and accountability. Yee has been a strong advocate for greater transparency of taxpayer dollars and has pushed legislation to allow the state to recoup tax credits from companies that eliminate jobs or move jobs out of state.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AT: http://www.lelandyee.com/issues/
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