Disgraced ex-Senator Yee to plead guilty

Jul 1, 2015

Former Sen. Leland Yee, charged with numerous offenses ranging from corruption to racketeering, will change his ‘not guilty’ plea in a court appearance today.  Bob Egelko, SFGate:


“A federal judge has calendared change-of-plea hearings for Yee and three co-defendants who had been scheduled to go to trial Aug. 10. Such hearings are held to enable criminal defendants to plead guilty, usually after negotiations with the prosecutor.


“The other defendants are former San Francisco school board President Keith Jackson, who served as a consultant and fundraiser for Yee; Jackson’s son Brandon; and sports agent Marlon Sullivan.


“Yee, D-San Francisco, was arrested March 26, 2014, and initially was charged with accepting $62,000 in bribes from FBI agents posing as contributors in exchange for legislative favors. The favors included voting for several bills, setting up a meeting for an agent who posed as a medical marijuana supplier and agreeing to illegally import firearms from the Philippines.”


And, this seems like as good a time as any to revisit the AMAZING Taiwanese animated news story on the Yee case.  Click if you haven't seen it.


And, in an anti-climactic end to a dramatic several months, Governor Brown promptly signed SB 277, the controversial bill mandating vaccinations for most California schoolchildren.   Opponents promise to continue the fight in the courts and Hollywood celebrities have taken to Twitter to express their outrage.


Several new laws go into effect today, including mandatory sick leave for most employees, the first phase of a ban on lead ammunition and mandatory kill switches on cell phones.  Don Thompson, AP:


“More than 6 million workers are expected to benefit from a new law taking effect Wednesday that requires California employers to provide them at least three paid sick days a year.


“The measure applies to most employees who work at least 30 days a year. The workers will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.


“It's among several new laws that take effect at the start of the state's new fiscal year.


“California will continue to phase in a ban on lead ammunition by barring its use for hunting in certain areas. In addition, smartphones manufactured and sold starting in July must have a remote kill switch to make the devices less attractive to thieves.”


SB 323, Sen. Ed Hernandez’ (D-Azusa) scope of practice bill that would have allowed nurse practitioners to treat patients without the supervision of a doctor, died in an Assembly committee TuesdayDan Walters, Sacramento Bee:


“Nurses, backed by medical insurers and hospitals, portrayed SB 323, which cleared the Senate easily on a 25-5 vote, as a way of expanding primary medical care services in an era of physician shortages, especially for low-income patients.


“But physicians, including the California Medical Association, opposed the bill as an incursion by nurses on their practices.


“The committee’s chairwoman, Susan Bonilla, received heavy support from physicians in her bid for the 7th Senate District seat (she was also supported by the nurses’ association), but lost to Steve Glazer. Bonilla said the campaign played no role in her handling of the bill. She voted against SB 323 Tuesday after the bill’s author, Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, refused to take an amendment she proposed to ‘level the playing field.’”


Fremont Sen. Bob Wieckowski has proposed a bill authorizing a tax of up to 300% on water wastersJosh Richman, Political Blotter:


SB 789 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will be heard Wednesday by the Assembly Local Government Committee. He held a news conference Tuesday at the Matsui Water Park, along the Sacramento River.


“’California is in an historical drought emergency that threatens basic water supplies in some areas, yet there are still some residents and businesses who seem oblivious to the need to conserve, or they just don’t care,’ Wieckowski, who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said in a release issued afterward.


“’SB 789 allows local water districts to go to the voters for permission to levy an excise tax on the worst water abusers,’ he said. ‘It is one more tool local agencies can utilize to change bad behavior. This is a drought that affects all of us and we should all conserve and do our part to get us through this crisis.’”


Consumer Watchdog released a study Tuesday that accuses oil refiners of artificially inflating the price of the gas it sells to branded gas stations.  Tiffany Hsu, LAT:


“Consumer Watchdog said that oil refiners have wielded their leverage over branded gas stations -- which are contractually obligated to buy gasoline at whatever prices refiners set -- to inflate prices this month.  Independent stations, which tend to be smaller and in locations that are less convenient to travelers, purchase gasoline from the wholesale market instead of directly from refiners.


“In the last two weeks, refiners in Los Angeles charged branded stations an average of 30 cents more per gallon than they did unbranded stations, according to Consumer Watchdog. The average premium over the last 16 years was three cents…


“’It’s basically like a grocer putting his hand on the scale because he owns it to drive up price,’ said Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court.”


But the good news is that California’s gas tax is dropping by 6 cents today.


The Supreme Court yesterday announced that it will hear a case from a California teacher challenging mandatory representation fees charged to all represented teachers – even those who do not belong to the union.   The case represents an ‘existential threat’ to public employee unions in 21 states.  David G. Savage, LA Times:


“’This is a very significant case. It may well be life or death for the unions,’ said Harvard Law School professor Benjamin Sachs. ‘Unions are required to represent everyone. And this could mean nobody has an obligation to pay.’


“A ruling against the mandatory fees would have a major effect on California’s public employee unions, which are among the most powerful in the country and represent hundreds of thousands of workers.


“At issue is the court’s 1977 precedent in Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, which today allows government worker unions in California and 20 other states to collect ‘fair share’ fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining, even from employees who do not join or support the union.


“Though the high court has said workers cannot be required to pay for a union’s political activities, it has concluded that they should contribute something toward a union’s cost of negotiating better wages and benefits for everyone.”


Buzzfeed posted GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz’ audition for the Simpsons on Tuesday, leading Politico to look back at politicians’ cameos on popular TV shows.  Fun stuff, and who knew that Parks and Recreation had so many DC guest stars?