Leland Yee Talks Supermajority
State Senator Leland Yee visited the South Bay last Friday as the guest speaker for the monthly Century Club luncheon. Welcomed warmly by the crowd, the senator reminisced about his close ties to San Jose before launching into his assessment of what the Democratic supermajority means for California. In short, it means:
- More compassion. Lee discussed life-without-parole sentencing for youth, a punishment that no other country in the Western world countenances. While certainly there are those who have committed heinous crimes, Yee argued that there should be some alternative pathway to reintegrate into society those who have earned a second chance. Lee's bill to give deserving youth a chance for parole after 25 years was signed by Governor Brown in September.
- More access. Lee touted California's efforts to expand voter registration in the state, including its new online registration program, which enrolled 780,000 new voters last year -- most of whom are new Democrats.
- More accountability. Lee was passionate about the subject of transparency and accountability. He strongly advocated the importance of ensuring the viability of the CalAccess database program, which enables voters to track campaign contributions and lobbying activity. Severely underfunded, the program is very old and crashed in 2011. Democrats successfully pushed an increase in lobbying fees to more fully fund the system; while it works now, it will still need to be replaced in the near future. Such a system, said Lee, is crucial to ensuring a transparent and accountable government.
- More responsiveness. Democrats are looking carefully at removing the onerous 2/3 requirements for raising revenues and moving ballot initiatives -- areas in which California's progress was hindered by a dug-in minority. They're also moving on gun legislation, including closing loopholes in current laws, that has wide support among voters but has been stymied by Republicans.
Lee's commitment to access and accountability make him a natural fit for Secretary of State in 2014; his ties to the South Bay mean that Santa Clara County Democrats will see a lot more of him as he lays the groundwork for that campaign.