Senator Leland Yee and Representative Anthony Portantino took the podium during last week’s ASUCD Senate meeting, accepting awards given by Lobby Corps for their contributions to higher education.
“Senator Yee and Representative Portantino have fought tirelessly to ensure funding for the UC, accountability within the system and an end to excessive pay for top administrators,” said Lobby Corps director Talia MacMath in her introduction of the legislators. “They are much needed and appreciated allies in the capitol.“
The small ceremony was held in Meeting Room One of the Activities and Recreation Center last Thursday at approximately 6:30 p.m. All members of the ASUCD Senate attended, as well as members from Lobby Corps.
The organization first honored Representative Portantino, a democrat from California’s 44th District in the Pasadena area.
“Representative Portantino introduced legislation to highlight the need for curbing excessive salaries during a fiscal crisis, a problem that has plagued UC for years,” said MacMath, a senior political science major.
MacMath discussed Assembly Bill 53, which prohibits specified state employees who make a base salary of over $150,000 from receiving any salary increase or overtime pay until Jan. 1, 2012. The UC system is opposed to this bill.
“These are some of the highest paid people,” Portantino said. “It makes no sense to me that UC would be opposed to this when other people are losing their jobs. It breaks my heart.”
Portantino also authored AB 224, which requests that institutions such as the UC Regents make a live broadcast of their meetings available over the Internet in order to make the meetings more transparent to the public.
The Representative thanked ASUCD and in particular Lobby Corps, saying the students have helped politicians to realize the importance of higher education.
“Lobby Corps has made us all realize that it’s really not about folks who have already made their way,” Portantino said.
Senator Leland Yee, a democrat from San Francisco/San Mateo County, earned the award for senator of the year for the second year in a row for his authorship and support of university-related bills, such as Senate Bills 217 through 220. These bills outlined the need for transparency and accountability in the UC system.
Yee authored SB 218 – currently being considered on the Senate Floor – which would update the Calif. Public Records Act to require all supporting organizations that receive public funds or perform government functions on state property, such as the university, to release public records like payrolls.
Additionally SB 219, if passed, will help to extend rights to university employees under the Calif. Whistleblower Protection Act, which ensures their legal protection should they call out unfair business practices within their work environment.
MacMath described these bills as the “much needed wake up calls that have underscored the importance of greater accountability and fairness in the UC system.“
In response, Yee thanked Lobby Corps for the award and for working with him on these bills.
“This is really not about me, this is about you,” Yee said. “These students understand the need to challenge the system, even when it’s doing well.“
He encouraged students to continue to ask questions of those in charge, and in particular to be critical of the regents and their spending.
MacMath presented the legislators with plaques on behalf of Lobby Corps and thanked the two for their cooperative work with the student organization.
“Affordability, accountability and accessibility are the pillars on which the university system stands,” MacMath concluded. “Senator Yee and Representative Portantino have fought to ensure the integrity of these commitments.“
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at email@example.com.