Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sen. Leland Yee joins SPJ for Sunshine Week reception TONIGHT

Celebrate Sunshine Week tonight - Friday, March 19 - with the SPJ San Diego Pro Chapter at a special reception and public forum with State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).

SD-SPJ will present its first-ever Sunshine Award, honoring Yee's outstanding efforts supporting transparency in government. The senator will join the chapter for an informal reception at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, and will discuss his open government efforts - including five bills he has introduced this year. Yee will be available for media interviews during the reception.

In January, Yee re-introduced SB 330 - legislation that was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year - that will bring greater transparency and accountability at campus auxiliary organizations by subjecting them to the California Public Records Act. Yee also introduced SB 438, legislation that would extend to charter schools the student speech rights enjoyed by students at public schools.

Yee has been a friend of student - and teacher - speech rights for several years. In 2006, he passed legislation that prohibits censorship of student press by administrators and protects students from being disciplined for engaging in speech or press activities. In 2008, he followed up with a law to protect high school and college teachers and other employees from retaliation by administrators as a result of student speech.

Yee also has passed legislation strengthening the state's open government laws. In August 2009, the governor signed into law legislation written and introduced by Yee to protect the right of individuals to enforce open government laws without fear of a significant financial burden, ensuring that government entities act with greater transparency. The new law, SB 786, prohibits public entities from recovering attorneys' fees from individuals who sue to enforce open government laws, specifically the California Public Records Act, Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, and the Ralph M. Brown Act. The law still will allow public agencies to recover costs if the court finds the suit frivolous.

In 2008, Yee passed other legislation that strengthened the California Public Records Act. That legislation, SB 1696, provides that no state or local agency may control or interfere with the release of records by another agency if those records would normally be public. The need for the law arose from the denial of a request by the San Francisco Chronicle to the University of California, San Francisco, which refused to release an independent review of its finances or even the name of the firm that was issued a contract for $165,000 to carry out the review.

As a member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, Yee helped craft the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, which ensured that city proceedings and records would be available to the public.

Yee has been awarded the Beacon Award by the First Amendment Coalition, the Scholastic Journalism Award by the Journalism Education Association, and the James Madison Freedom of Information Award by SPJ's Northern California Pro Chapter.

When: Friday, March 19, 6:30 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. program
Where: University of San Diego, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, 5998 Alcala Park
Cost: Free (suggested donation - $5 members, $10 non-members)
RSVP not required, but preferred: