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After serving four years in the California State Assembly, Leland Yee was elected to the State Senate in November 2006 with the largest winning percentage for any Democratic candidate. In 2010, Senator Yee was re-elected, receiving the most votes of any Democratic legislator in the State. Representing District 8, which includes San Francisco and San Mateo County, Yee is the first Chinese American ever elected to the California State Senate.
During his tenure in the Legislature, Senator Yee has fought for children, mental health services, working families, seniors, education, open government, consumer protection, civil rights, election reform, and the environment. He has consistently voted against budget cuts to education, social services, and health care.
Yee has been named “Legislator of the Year” by dozens of organizations including the American Psychological Association, California School Employees Association, California Psychiatric Association, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, Community College Association, San Francisco Women's Political Committee, California Faculty Association, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
For his legislative and community efforts, Senator Yee has also been honored with dozens of awards from such organizations as the National Education Association, Sierra Club, California Newspaper Publishers Association, San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking, Equality California, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, California Women for Agriculture, California Animal Association, A. Philip Randolph Institute, First Amendment Coalition, and Environment California. In addition, Californians Aware dubbed Yee “Senator Sunshine” for his open government work and the California Labor Federation named him a “Labor Warrior” for protecting working families.
Since 2003, Dr. Yee has one of the best track records in getting his bills passed and signed into law. In fact, he has successfully passed 181 pieces of legislation, of which 138 have been chaptered into law.
In 2013, Senator Leland Yee had 14 bills chaptered into law. Most notably, SB 44 requires all websites operated by the state of California to add a link to the Secretary of State's voter registration page. SB 286 extends the Green Sticker program, incentivizing the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles so clean our air and reduce our carbon footprint. SB 528 provides assistance to pregnant and parenting foster youth. SB 553 increases oversight standards for fee elections. SB 751 required large intergovernmental agencies to comply with the Brown Act, keeping them more accountable to the public. SJR 14 called upon Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.
In 2012, Senator Leland Yee had 15 bills chaptered into law. Most notably, SB 9 provides juveniles sentenced to life without parole, who express remorse and work towards rehabilitation, the opportunity to petition for a new sentence of 25 years to life. SB 1001 increases fees required of registered lobbyists, ballot measure committees, and independent expenditure committees, in order to finance the maintenance of the state campaign and lobbying disclosure system. SB 1349 prohibits public and private colleges and universities from asking students and applicants for their social media usernames and passwords. SB 1339 helps reduce pollution and traffic congestion in San Francisco Bay Area by creating a regional commute benefit requirement of medium and large businesses.
In 2011, Senator Leland Yee had 9 bills chaptered into law. Most notably, SB 8 ensures UC and CSU foundations and auxiliary organizations adhere to the public records act. SB 41 provides safe access to sterile syringes to prevent the spread of AIDS, HIV, and hepatitis. SB 136 guarantees prevailing wage on all public energy projects. SB 216 mandates automatic and remotely controlled shutoff valves throughout California's natural gas pipeline system. SB 397 allows citizens to register to vote via the internet. SB 602 protects consumers privacy on book purchases.
In 2010, Senator Leland Yee had 18 bills chaptered into law. Most notably, SB 650 provides legal protections for UC employees who are retaliated against for reporting illegal or improper actions. SB 438 ensures that charter schools adhere to the state’s student speech and employee protection laws. SB 535 allows access to the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) highway lanes for the latest generation of low-emission vehicles. SB 782 prohibits landlords from unfairly evicting survivors of domestic violence. SB 880 requires all children under age 18 to wear helmets while skiing and snowboarding. SB 677 allows courts to seize any property, such as house or automobile, used in the commission of human trafficking.
In 2009, Senator Leland Yee had 9 bills chaptered into law. Most notably, SB 13 restores $16.3 million for 94 domestic violence shelters and centers throughout California. SB 340 protects consumers by requiring businesses to clearly and conspicuously enumerate all automatic renewal offer terms and obtain customers affirmative consent. SB 447 helps protect children from sexual predators and other violent criminals by reforming the criminal background check law at youth organizations. SB 786 protects the right of individuals to enforce open government laws without fear of a significant financial burden and ensures that public entities act with greater transparency. SCR 48 makes California the first state to officially declare October as Filipino American History Month.
In 2008, Senator Leland Yee had 14 bills chaptered into law. Most notably, SB 1356 protects domestic violence survivors from the threat of incarceration when they refuse to testify against their abuser in court. SB 697 bans the predatory practice of balance billing for low-income families. SB 1217 provides public oversight of the state bar pilots commission. SB 1250 is designed to reduce recidivism by allowing greater family communication for incarcerated youth. SB 1370 protects high school and college teachers and other employees from retaliation by administrators as a result of student speech. SB 1419 protects San Francisco pedestrians by declaring a double-fine zone on 19th and Van Ness Avenues. SB 1696 allows greater public access to government contracts as well as audits and reviews of public agencies.
In 2007, Senator Leland Yee had 11 bills chaptered into law. Most notably, SB 190 – the Higher Education Governance Accountability Act, brings major transparency reforms to the governing boards of the University of California and California State University. SB 230 grants the Broadmoor Police Department with all the powers and responsibilities of a municipal police force. SB 279 addresses illegal organized vehicle sales which cause a public nuisance and safety concerns. SB 523 increases the number of child support payments collected in San Mateo County by establishing a program to allow judges to order an unemployed child support obligor to seek work at the initial support hearing. SCR 52 calls for shared governance by workers of the University of California employee’s pension plan.
In 2006, Yee had 10 bills chaptered. Most notably, AB 2581 made California the first state in the nation to specifically prohibit censorship of college student press, including school newspapers and broadcast journalism. AB 450 requires disaster preparedness agencies to consider household pets, service animals, equines, and livestock in emergency evacuation planning. AB 1969 increases the production of renewable energy in California by allowing water and wastewater agencies to sell environmentally-friendly energy – such as small hydro, solar, and biogas – produced by their treatment and delivery facilities to electrical companies. AB 1207 adds sexual orientation to the list of protections in the Code of Fair Political Practices. AB 409, emergency legislation, establishes new health standards to protect nail salon consumers. ACR 106 officially declares California’s White Ribbon Campaign, an effort of men against violence.
In 2005, 12 Yee-authored bills were chaptered into law. Most notably, AB 1179 protects children from the harmful effects of ultra-violent video games. AB 451 returns millions of dollars to airport communities across the state. AB 637 allows properly trained foster parents to administer life-saving shots for their foster children. AB 800 guarantees a patient’s spoken language is included in his/her medical records. AJR 14 officially declares California’s opposition to any weakening of the federal offshore oil drilling moratorium.
In 2004, Yee had 11 bills chaptered into law. Most notably, AB 3042 helps protect children from being exploited through prostitution. AB 2412 helps part-time community college faculty to access earned unemployment benefits. AB 1793 gives parents a tool in choosing appropriate video games for their children by requiring retailers to post signs about the rating system. ACR 195 brings greater awareness of the need for literacy instruction for visually impaired students through the use of Braille. ACR 158 officially declares each January as Mental Wellness Month in California.
In 2003, Yee’s first year in the Legislature, he had all 15 of his bills signed into law. Most notably, AB 504 increased fines for littering in parks and open space districts. AB 938 offers incentives to mental health practitioners working in medically under-served communities. AB 1102 requires evaluation of current mental health sensitivity training for law enforcement officers. AB 1371 strengthens informed consent requirements for mentally ill patients involved in medical research.
Other notable legislation authored by Yee include: AB 292 (2004) to prohibit the use of children as medical interpreters; AB 443 (2005) to improve school nutritional standards; AB 1321 (2005) to protect patients from receiving unfair bills for medical services covered by their insurance; AB 1113 (2005) to help strengthen the profession of acupuncture by allowing diagnosis within an acupuncturist’s scope of practice; AB 1818 (2004) to protect the health and safety of snowmobile consumers; SB 999 (2007) to end the sentencing of life without the possibility of parole for youth offenders; SB 1505 (2008) to increase and better define the legal rights of state whistleblowers; SB 86 (2009) to prohibit executive pay raises during bad budget years at the UC and CSU; SB 242 (2009) to prohibit businesses from denying service to patrons based on their spoken language; SB 840 (2010) to require reporting of violent and sexual crimes against minors; SB 920 (2010) to allow consumers to opt-out of receiving the telephone directory; SB 220 (2010) to mandate health insurance policies to cover tobacco cessation services; SB 1140 (2010) to allow voter registration up to and on Election Day; SB 1451 (2010) to ensure California textbooks are not affected by the curriculum changes made in other states; and SB 364 (2011) to allow the state to clawback tax credits given to corporations that fail to keep their job creation promises.
Dr. Yee was the first Asian American to be appointed Assistant President pro Tempore of the California State Senate as well as the first Asian American to serve as Speaker pro Tempore of the California State Assembly. In addition, Yee was the first President of the National Asian Pacific American Caucus of State Legislators.
Prior to serving in the Legislature, Dr. Yee was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for the first time in 1996. As Chair of the Finance Committee, he championed fiscal responsibility and accountability and established the largest "Rainy Day" budget reserve in San Francisco's history. Yee introduced and passed the General Obligation Bond Accountability Act and authored the Sunshine Ordinance to allow the public real access to what goes on at City Hall. He also became the first Supervisor to hold budget hearings in San Francisco neighborhoods, making it easier for communities to participate in the local budget process.
Starting in 1988, Dr. Yee spent eight years on the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education where he fought to streamline bureaucracy, direct funds towards higher standards in core curriculum, update educational materials, reduce class sizes, and increase public access to school services.
Leland Yee emigrated at the age of 3 to San Francisco from China. His father was a veteran who served in the US Army and the Merchant Marine. Yee received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his master's degree from San Francisco State University. After earning his doctorate in Child Psychology at the University of Hawaii, Dr. Yee worked in various mental health and school settings. He and his wife, Maxine, have raised four children who all attended public schools.