|Member of the California State Senate
from the 8th district
December 4, 2006
|Preceded by||Jackie Speier|
|Member of the California State Assembly
from the 12th district
December 2, 2002 – December 4, 2006
|Preceded by||Kevin Shelley|
|Succeeded by||Fiona Ma|
|Member of the
San Francisco Board of Supervisors
from District 4
January 1997 – December 2, 2002
|Preceded by||district created in 2000; prior terms were for city-wide seat|
|Succeeded by||Fiona Ma|
November 20, 1948 |
|Residence||San Francisco, California|
|Alma mater||University of California, Berkeley
San Francisco State University
University of Hawaii
Leland Yee (Chinese: 余胤良; pinyin: Yú Yìnliáng, born November 20, 1948) is a California State Senator for District 8, which represents a large portion of east central California. Before redistricting in 2011, Yee represented District 8 in San Francisco. Prior to becoming state senator, Yee was a California State Assemblyman, Supervisor of San Francisco's Sunset District, and was a member and President of the San Francisco School Board. In 2004 Yee became the first Asian American to be appointed Speaker pro Tempore, making him the second highest ranking Democrat of the California State Assembly.
Early life and education
Leland Yee immigrated to San Francisco, California from Taishan, Guangdong, China when he was three years old and later became a naturalized United States citizen. His father served in the United States Army and the Merchant Marines. Yee attended San Francisco's Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Middle School and earned a bachelor's degree from University of California, Berkeley, a master's degree from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in Child Psychology from the University of Hawaii.
After obtaining his doctorate in Child Psychology, Yee worked as a therapist in the Mental Health Department of San Francisco, the Oakland School District and with Asian American for Community Involvement, a non-profit that serves low-income people.
San Francisco School Board Member and President
Yee was elected to the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education in 1988 and served two, four-year terms on the board including one as Board President. During his tenure, Yee called for audits of all schools in the San Francisco Unified School District and fought to establish performance standards for educators.
In 1992, Yee was arrested for the alleged shoplifting of a bottle of tanning oil from the KTA Superstore in Kona's Keauhow Shopping Village. The case was not prosecuted, as Yee disappeared before he could be prosecuted.
District 4 Supervisor
Yee successfully ran for supervisor in 1996. As District 4 supervisor Yee was appointed to chair the Finance Committee, where he helped establish the "Rainy Day" budget reserve and introduced General Obligation Bond Accountability Act. He was re-elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2000.
District 12 Assemblyman
In his first year in the Legislature, he was appointed to the Speaker's leadership team as the Assistant Speaker pro Tempore. In 2004 Yee became the first Asian Pacific American to be appointed Speaker pro Tempore in the California State Assembly and was elected President of the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators.
In his first term the Legislature, Yee had 15 bills signed into law.
These bills include AB 1371 which strengthens informed consent requirements for mentally handicapped patients that take part in medical research.
Yee had 11 bills chartered into law in 2004.
Yee had 12 bills chartered into law in 2005.
Included in his bill package were AB 800 which ensures a patient's medical records include his/her spoken language, AB 1179 which bans the sale of violent video games to children, and AJR 14 which states that California officially opposes the weakening of the federal offshore oil drilling moratorium
Following news of the "Hot Coffee mod" in Rockstar North's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Yee claimed that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) knew about it in advance and criticized them for not rating the game "adults only". The controversy resulted from the Hot Coffee mod created by personal computer users of the game using hacking tools to create a modification to play a "minigame", or game-within-a-game, which was otherwise inaccessible to players. In response, Rockstar removed the content used for the modification. That same year, Yee passed California Assembly Bills 1792 & 1793, a video game bill that criminalizes sale of video games rated M to children under 18 and require retailers to place M-rated games separate from other games intended for children. Yee's bills passed in part to mass media concentration on the speculative link between video game violence and real world violence, as well as several support of concerned parent groups. The bill was signed into law on October 7, 2005 and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) filed a lawsuit 10 days later. After the bill passed, it was ruled to be unconstitutional by Judge Ronald Whyte. The adverse ruling required the state to pay $324,840 to the ESA in legal fees.
Yee had 10 bills signed into law in 2006.
Notable bills include AB 1969, which increases renewable energy production in the state, AB 2581, which aims to protect student free speech and prohibit school administrators from censoring school newspapers and broadcast journalism, AB 409, which establishes tighter controls and higher health standards for nail salons, and AB 1207, which adds sexual orientation to the list of protections in the Code of Fair Political Practices.
On June 6, 2006, Yee defeated his opponents Mike Nevin and Lou Papan to win the Democratic nomination for the California State Senate. In the final vote tally certified on June 27, 2006 by San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer Warren Slocum, Yee gathered 51.9 percent, Nevin received 35.4 percent and Papan took 12.7 percent of the vote. Since Jan. 1, Nevin spent $887,562.80 of campaign contributions, Yee spent $673,372.59 and Papan ran a modest campaign, spending just $289,862.64. He was elected to the California State Senate in the November 7, 2006 election by a landslide of 77.5% of votes cast. With San Francisco and San Mateo County having a high Democratic base Yee was elected on November 7, 2006. Yee replaced Jackie Speier, who left office due to term limits.
Yee actively serves on the following Senate committees:
- Business, Professions and Economic Development
- Governmental Organization
- Human Services
- Labor and Industrial Relations
- Select Committee on Biotechnology
- Select Committee on California's Wine Industry
- Select Committee on California's Horse Racing Industry
- Select Committee on Integrity of Elections
- Select Committee on International Business Trade
Additionally, Yee chairs the following Senate committees:
- Select Committee on California's Public Record and Open Meeting Laws
- Select Committee on Asian Pacific Islander Affairs
- Select Committee on Bay Area Sustainable Development and Economic Progress
Senator Yee had 11 bills signed into law in 2007.
Included in these bills was SB 279, making it unlawful to park cars for sale, deemed a public nuisance and traffic hazard, along public roads, SB 190, which brings more transparency to the compensation practices of administrators at the University of California and the California State University, SB 523, which increases the quantity of child support payments collected in San Mateo County, and SCR 52, which declares the legislature "finds that joint governance of the University of California Retirement Plan is necessary to ensure that significant pension plan decisions are based on full and accurate information, to prevent conflicts of interest from impacting the management and performance of the University of California Retirement Plan, and to ensure that the University of California Retirement Plan is financially sound and well managed in a fair and appropriate manner."
On April 12, 2007 Yee criticized the United States Army's plan to spend $2 million in tax dollars to sponsor the Global Gaming League. Yee claims the military individuals on the site who are "desensitized to real-life violence through the online violent video games."
On August 29, 2007, Yee again criticized the ESRB, this time for not disclosing what content was removed from Manhunt 2 to re-rate the game from an AO rating for violence to the ESRB Mature rating. Yee asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the change in rating. In response, ESRB president Patricia Vance stated the details for a product that has not yet been released will not be disclosed.
Senator Yee had 14 bills signed into law in 2008.
Among these bill, SB 697 prohibits balance billing of patients in the California's Healthy Families program, SB 1217 allows public oversight of the state bar pilots commission, SB 1356, which aims to protect victims of domestic violence from the threat of jail when they refrain from testifying against their abuser in court, SB 1370, which protects teachers from the retaliatory action of school officials as a result of student speech, SB 1696, which states that contracts between a government and a private entity should be subject to the same disclosure requirements as other public records, and SB 1419, which creates a double-fine zone on 19th and Van Ness Avenues—an area area with a historically high pedestrian collision rate.
Yee and Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Los Angeles challenged the legality of the LPGA's English language policy, resulting in a revision of policy by the end of 2008. Yee introduced SB 242, prohibiting businesses from denying services to customers that don't speak English. The bill was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 11, 2009.
Opposition to Schwarzenegger healthcare plan
On January 23, 2008 during a committee meeting, Yee announced his opposition to the health care plan sponsored by Governor Schwarzenegger and supported by a majority of Democrats in the California State House and Senate, while opposed by a majority of Republicans. Yee's opposition along with the opposition of Democratic Senator and Health Committee Chair Sheila Kuehl led the New York Times to predict that California's healthcare bill would be effectively killed.
Senator Yee had 9 bills signed into law in 2009.
He wrote SB 340, which requires businesses to list all automatic renewal offer terms and obtain customer approval, SB 13, which provides $16.3 million for domestic violence shelters, SB 786, which preserves an individual's right to enforce open government laws, and SB 447, which reforms the criminal background check laws for people seeking employment at youth organizations.
On July 22, 2009, Yee filed an amicus brief in support of Governor Schwarzenegger's appeal to the Supreme Court regarding the passing of a law that would criminalize the sale of "ultraviolent" video games to minors, claiming that unlike books, movies and CDs, video games "can contain up to 800 hours of footage with the most atrocious content often reserved for the highest levels and can be accessed only by advanced players after hours upon hours of progressive mastery.". This action has been met with criticism from gamers that the Californian state senator is wasting resources on a law already judged unconstitutional at a time when the state is already facing economic problems
This year, Senator Yee introduced SB 1451, a bill that ensures California students do not learn from a modified curriculum designed by Texas-based textbook publishers. He wrote SB 399, a bill that would give a juvenile sentenced to life in prison without parole, the right to ask for a court review after ten years. He also introduced SB 920, a bill allowing Californians to opt out of having phone books delivered to their homes. The Senate rejected the bill, however.
The remainder of Yee's bill package focuses on consumer protection, child safety, government transparency, and domestic violence prevention None of his bills have been signed into law this year. Yee was also the third largest taxpayer-funded gas card spender in the senate for 2010 costing $5,314.66. A spokesman said he commutes daily from the state Capitol to his district to hold daily and evening meetings to better serve his constituents.
This year, Senator Yee opposed AB376, which banned the sale of shark fins claiming that it was "an attack on Asian culture" and targeting the Chinese delicacy was an "another example in a long line of examples of insensitivity to the culture and traditions of the Asian American community." Proponents of the bill seek to discourage illegal shark finning, a practice that involves cutting off the tails and fins of living sharks, which are then thrown back into the ocean to die. Opponents contend that restaurants do not acquire shark fins illegally and that the focus should be specifically on fins caught illegally.
In May 2012, together with Senator Kevin de León, Senator Yee proposed legislation to ban any semi-auto rifle that had a "conversion kit" that makes the rifle a "fixed magazine rifle." SB 249 would ban conversion kits and rifles. According to his press release, "Absent this bill, California's assault weapon ban is significantly weakened. For the safety of the general public, we must close this loophole." Senator Yee is quoted as saying, "It is extremely important that individuals in the state of California do not own assault weapons. I mean that is just so crystal clear, there is no debate, no discussion."
2011 Mayoral Campaign
On November 9, 2011, almost exactly a year after filing his candidacy, he lost the election, coming in fifth place.
Yee was named the California Legislator of the Year by San Francisco Women's Political Committee, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME Local 3299), California Society of Certified Public Accountants, Associated Students of the University of California (Davis)  and the California Faculty Association among others.
Yee has also been awarded the following awards:
- Modern Day Abolitionist Award by the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking
- Distinguished Service to Journalism Education Award by the Journalism Association of Community Colleges
- Service Award by Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse of San Mateo County
- Scholastic Journalism Award by the Journalism Education Association
- Leadership Award from the California Animal Association
- Public Official Award by the Society of Professional Journalists
Rewriting of SB249
On May 22, 2012, Yee rewrote the majority of senate bill SB249, a previously stalled agricultural bill, to ban "conversion kits" for firearms. The proposed bill would make possession of a "conversion" kit designed to convert a detachable magazine firearm into a fixed magazine firearm a felony in the state of California.
The bill has currently passed the public safety committee, and will next be heard by the appropriations committee.
Investigation into funds used for Sarah Palin's speech
In April 2010, Yee filed a public records request to discover if any state funds were used by California State Stanislaus Foundation to hire and pay former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin $75,000 to speak at the school's 50th anniversary celebration on June 25. The foundation refused to divulge the any information about fees paid to Palin.
In response, Yee introduced SB 330, which would require groups to abide by California's Public Records Act. On May 28, the Los Angeles Times reported that two California State sources disclosed that Sarah Palin will receive $75,000 for her speaking engagement. Officials would not confirm the amount of the disclosure. In response to the disclosure, Yee said, "It's rather disappointing that Sarah Palin is asking for nearly $100,000 to speak at this anniversary event when we're looking at state increases in student fees, cancellations of classes and the fact that this money could be going to scholarships… She could do wonders for all of us … by taking this money and donating it back to the foundation." Palin's speech brought in a then record $200,000 profit for the Cal State Stanislaus Foundation
Criticisms of Rush Limbaugh
On January 19, 2011, conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh mocked Chinese president Hu Jintao during his visit to the White House on his radio show. "Hu Jintao — he was speaking and they weren't translating. They normally translate every couple of words. Hu Jintao was just going ching chong, ching chong cha," said Limbaugh, who imitated Hu's speech for seventeen seconds. Yee criticized Limbaugh for his remarks: "His classless act is an insult to over 3,000 years of cultural history, and is a slap in the face to the millions of Chinese Americans who have struggled in this country and to a people who constitute one-quarter of the world's population." He demanded an apology from Limbaugh for what he and others view as racist and derogatory remarks. He also organized with civil rights groups—including Chinese for Affirmative Action, Japanese American Citizens League and the California National Organization for Women—to boycott companies like ProFlowers, Sleep Train and Domino's Pizza that advertise on Limbaugh's talk show. Yee has received threatening messages and also received a fax from an unknown sender who made racist comments and labeling him a Marxist. "Rush Limbaugh will kick your Chink ass and expose you for the fool you are," part of the memo said.
Shark finning legislation
California State Assemblyman Paul Fong had introduced Assembly Bill 376, a legislation intended to ban a method of harvesting shark fins, but the details of which also stipulates that any commercial or culinary use of any shark's fin become banned, in particular Shark's fin soup, which Assemblyman Fong describes as: "Anything that is unhealthy, that the culture is practicing, we should stop doing it. We used to bind women's feet and that was unhealthy for the woman". In what may be a described as a cynical analogy with a long obsolete practice of foot binding is echoed by Hawaii's former first lady Vicky Cayetano who states that: "shark fin soup is about as cultural as bound feet", however, Senator Leland Yee, while voicing his concern about the illegal shark finning trade, argued that the mentality behind AB376 constitutes "the wrong approach and an unfair attack on Asian culture and cuisine... rather than launch just another attack on Asian American culture, the proponents of the (blanket) ban on shark fin soup should work with us to strengthen conservation efforts". Critics said the bill unfairly targeted the Chinese-American community because it only restricts the sale of shark fins, which are used almost exclusively in Chinese cuisine. The bill does not apply to other shark products like oil or meat.
"I think what is most insidious about this particular bill is that it sends a very bad message, not only to us in California but to the rest of the world, that discrimination against Chinese-Americans is OK," Senator Yee said.
Additional threats against his life in 2013
In a Thursday, February 14, 2013 Los Angeles Times online local politics news story article by Maria La Ganga, Yee stated that he had received an e-mailed warning, which was immediately reported to police, sometime around the third week of January 2013. This very explicit, unambiguous threat was not like previous death threats he had received that could be ignored as protected speech or as racist comments. The writer specifically threatened to assassinate him at or near the California State Capitol building, and stated that he was a trained sniper and had specific weapons available that could be used. On Tuesday, February 12, 2013, Everett Basham, 45, a Silicon Valley engineer who once worked with Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak, was arrested before he could take any action. Chief Scott MacGregor, head of the California Highway Patrol's Protective Services Division, said that officers found precursor chemicals used for bomb-making and other explosive materials when his home was searched.
Leland Yee married his wife Maxine in 1972 and together they raised four children who attended San Francisco public schools. He currently lives in San Francisco's Sunset District.
- After redistricting in 2011 by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Senate District 8 included all of Amador, Calaveras, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono, and Tuolumne counties, 55.9% of Fresno County, 18.9% of Madera County, 3.0% of Sacramento County, 28.2% of Stanislaus County, and 0.9% of Tulare County. Cities in the district include Fresno, Rancho Cordova, and Turlock.
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- "Asian-American officials seek Limbaugh apology". USA Today. Associated Press. January 28, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2011. "She added: "He was, in his own way, trying to attack the leader of another country, and that's his prerogative as well, but at the same time he offended 13% of New York City's population.""
- "Senator Yee says racist statements, death threats need to stop". MercuryNews.com (MediaNews Group). Bay City News Service. January 27, 2011. Archived from the original on January 28, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2011. "State Sen. Leland Yee said at a San Francisco news conference today that threatening messages sent to his office via fax, text message and email need to stop, and that the messages have made him disappointed in the country."
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- Leland Y. Yee (Official California Senate Site)
- State Senate Campaign Site
- Leland Yee Political History
- San Mateo County Votes Tally Complete
- Yee's biography on Asian Americans.net
Election was not district specific
|Member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
||Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore
Sally J. Lieber
|State Senator, 8th District