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Senators reject fee on their campaigns to improve state website

May 30, 2012 |  4:41 pm

State Sen. Leland Yee

State lawmakers balked Wednesday at levying a fee against their own campaigns and lobbyists to upgrade the state’s fragile and aging database for campaign finance reporting.

The state Senate failed to muster the two-thirds vote needed to approve a bill that would charge a $50 registration fee to campaign committees and double, from $25 to $50, the annual fee charged to lobbyists who register to operate in the state.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) said the fees are needed to maintain, improve and possibly replace the 12-year-old Cal-Access, a website and database that allows the public to see who is making political contributions and hiring lobbyists.

"You can imagine finding parts and qualified individuals to maintain that system has been rather increasingly difficult, and that’s one of the reasons the system went down for nearly a month in December of last year," Yee told his colleagues.

However, Yee barely got a majority vote, and did not get the supermajority needed to pass SB 1001. Several of Yee’s fellow Democrats, including Sens. Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, Roderick Wright of Inglewood and Ron Calderon of Montebello, did not cast votes, while most Republicans voted against the measure.

Although only 21 of the 40 senators supported the bill, Yee asked that it be made eligible for another vote Thursday.

The lack of support was critized by Phillip Ung of California Common Cause. ``Voters should be outraged about the hypocrisy displayed by senators who decided to protect special interests and their own campaign war chests rather than fund the state’s online disclosure system,’’ Ung said.


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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) wants to raise fees on campaigns and lobbyists to improve a campaign-finance database, but his colleagues did not support his bill. Photographer: Ben Margot / AP Photo.