June’s Prop. 50 Was Inspired In Part By Former State Sen. Leland Yee’s Arrest

This story originally appeared at CBS Sacramento on Feb. 24, 2016

By Kyle Buis

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The sentencing of former State Sen. Leland Yee comes just over three months before a Constitutional amendment his arrest helped inspire.

On June 7, Proposition 50 will have California voters decide whether suspended members of the state’s legislature can be suspended without pay. Currently, that power is in a legal gray area.

The California Constitutional amendment was proposed by then state Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg after three embattled state legislators not only continued to receive their pay, but got raises despite facing criminal charges.

  • State Sen. Roderick Wright was indicted by a grand jury for voter fraud and perjury over his place of residence. He was convicted on Jan. 28, 2014, but a series of delays pushed his sentencing to Sept. 12. He resigned days later and served out his sentence on Oct. 30. His 90-day sentence was reduced to less than 90 minutes because it was a nonviolent offense.
  • State Sen. Ron Calderon was indicted in February 2014 on charges he accepted money for getting legislation passed. His trial has been delayed until May 10, nearly two years to the day when he decided to take an indefinite leave of absence.
  • Finally, Yee, a Secretary of State candidate with a strong gun control record, was arrested and his offices were raided on March 26, 2014 in connection with a gunrunning investigation where he accepted bribes and discussed helping an undercover FBI agent buy automatic weapons from the Philippines. He was sentenced to five years in prison as part of a plea deal on Wednesday.

The three were able to continue receiving their pay because of a legal opinion from the state’s Legislative Counsel Bureau that raised possible conflicts with the state Constitution, specifically 1990’s Proposition 112. The amendment meant to curb gifts and influence from lobbyists also created the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which would set pay and benefits for legislators.

Because of that rule and a court case in New Jersey, the bureau issued an opinion saying the Senate couldn’t touch the salary or benefits of the suspended Senators, since any wage changes were in the hands of the commission.

That commission meets once a year to decide changes to legislators’ compensation, and by law, can only make changes across the board, not for specific lawmakers. That left no room for it to strip suspended lawmakers of their pay, or exempt them from the 2 percent raise granted to legislators in June 2014.

Steinberg’s office proposed Senate Constitutional Amendment 17 to deal with the issue. With a two-thirds vote in the legislature, a lawmaker can be suspended and their pay and benefits can be stripped during the course of the suspension. Another two-thirds vote would be required to reinstate them.

SCA17 was intended to go on the November 2014 ballot, but a delay by the state Assembly pushed it back to this June’s general election.

Majora’s Mask Limited Edition 3DS And Game Bundles Will Be Available At Fry’s Electronics

Sometimes you complain into the wind and don’t expect to hear anything back.

After news that Target and Fry’s had both listed the Majora’s Mask Limited Edition 3DS systems briefly before selling out, I threw out this random thought

Well, someone at Fry’s was listening and gave me a glimmer of hope:

But dropping $200 on a new console didn’t seem like a good idea, especially with the rigmarole Nintendo puts users through to transfer digital purchases—the fact you need both systems at the time of transfer is a bit of a deal-killer. Throw in the fact I work nights, and lining up for an 8 a.m. opening for the system didn’t seem like a great idea.

However, Fry’s did entice me a little more

Yep, the limited bundle with the rare figurine will also be available.

Whether or not I make the trek to Fry’s that day, it’s good to see that both the system and the game bundle will be available in stores through at least one chain. Odds are, this will extend to Gamestop and Target, but in super-limited quantities.

Why Is The Internet In Danger And How Can I Help Keep It From Turning To Crap?

The Federal Communications Commission has essentially thrown its hands in the air and is asking for public input for how to solve the open internet/net neutrality/Internet fast lane debate.

The unfortunate thing is how little people know and understand about this very important issue for how the Internet should work.

RELATED: Text of FCC’S proposed rules

First a little background.

This latest round of debate got started early this year when the Supreme Court struck down the FCC’s ‘net neutrality’ rules, saying the commission lacked the authority to enforce the 2010 regulations.

Those rules were put in place to make sure Internet Service Providers couldn’t prioritize certain traffic over other traffic, or simply block others. An example of this would be if Comcast, who now owns NBC and has its own TV services, would decide to downgrade service going toward Netflix or other Internet video in favor of its own offerings. In this instance, they’d be essentially kneecapping a competitor by taking advantage of the fact they provide both Internet and video services.

The Supreme Court did leave an avenue open where the FCC could classify ISPs as common carriers. Essentially that would mean treating networks the same way as phone lines: While a company may lay its wire, the network itself is open to competition because it uses public rights of way.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has tried to strike a balance between solutions by introducing the idea of an Internet fast lane—ISPs would be allowed to charge companies for better access to their networks. One example would be Netflix paying Comcast for better access to its network, but that’s totally never going to happen, right?

In addition, he proposed that ISPs “shall not engage in commercially unreasonable practices. Reasonable network management shall not constitute a commercially unreasonable practice.

This all sounds good on paper, but there are three big flaws:

Kiss innovation goodbye. OK, maybe that’s putting it a little strong, but in addition to what it already takes to get the next YouTube or Netflix off the ground in terms of manpower, ideas and red tape, any Internet video startup would have to also pay the ISP for better access. Otherwise, their customers wouldn’t be able to get the level of service needed for their product to get off the ground.

Did I say ISP? I meant plural ISPs. If one company is going to charge for prioritized access, you better believe there will be others wanting companies to pony up too.

Just the Supreme Court throwing out the FCC net neutrality rules and talk of an Internet fast lane is already hurting the start up market, as venture capital firms are already shying away from video or otherwise data intensive companies.

What is a “commercially unreasonable” practice? In theory any maneuver a company makes could be called commercially reasonable if they are publicly traded. After all, if it’s a move to increase their profits that doesn’t serve customers well, they can still make the argument that it benefits shareholders, who they are legally obligated to help.

No blocking doesn’t require network upgrades. One of the big issues that’s arisen with Netflix on different ISPs has been if the companies’ infrastructure can handle it. All it takes is a switch here and a hub there not being updated, and suddenly there’s just not enough bandwidth to meet demand. If companies are making money on their prioritized network, there’s no financial incentive for them to improve the “slower lane.”

The good news is people have a chance to get involved and have their voices heard.

The FCC is accepting public comment on the issue through September by emailing openinternet@fcc.gov. Thursday’s 3-2 vote on the guidelines was simply a step to open public commenting. If the FCC doesn’t hear a loud enough outcry against these proposed rules, they will become the law of the land and won’t be overturned without a protracted legal fight.

The best solution in my opinion is going back to what the Supreme Court hinted at: Extending common carrier rules to ISPs.

The biggest issue the Internet has right now aside from net neutrality is a severe lack of competition. Most markets have two options: A cable provider that is really fast and an DSL provider that hasn’t upgraded much in the past decade. It used to be that ISPs were required to open their pipes and allow access to local competitors. Over the course of the last decade, however, those provisions have been neutered to the point that competition no longer exists.

If the lines are opened up to competition, most of the issues that have arisen will be resolved. Prices will drop, data caps will be harder to enact, and pay-to-play double-dipping deals won’t happen.

It’s not hyperbole to say the future of the Internet rides on these proceedings. If ISPs are allowed to collect twice from companies connecting to their network—once to connect to the network and once to connect to customers—it’s going to undo what’s made the Internet the powerful tool it is today.

 

And now, yet another site redesign

I wish I’d taken screenshots over the years of how many times I’ve redone this site. Then again, that’s a longer slideshow than I’d have time to deal with.

But this is a big transition for me. I’ve self-hosted and patched things together on my own through wordpress.org for the better part of a decade now. I had a miserable time with GoDaddy after imploding my own site while working on it at 3 a.m. (never a good idea), and they held my site hostage for $200 to recover it. But that’s years in the past. 

I moved to Westhost, which is a nice host if you’re looking for something barebones that has a barely functional backend. But if you FTP all of your stuff, it’s a fantastic experience.

But it’s May, which means my annual fee was due. $100 was coming out of my wallet in the next week and I really wasn’t looking forward to it. Thankfully, my girlfriend was looking at hosts for her own site and rather than thinking of trying to find a host and putting together a WordPress install (mental note: I should really work on that), I checked out WordPress.com.

Now just a quick note: There are two different Wordpress configurations: WordPress.org is the self-hosted version where you host it yourself. WordPress.com is the service the company offers that’s free to start with, but has a few fees attached here and there.

It turns out what I needed fell under the free plan. Outside of $13/yr to map a domain I bought through another service, I’m not paying a dime.

As an added bonus, we use WordPress VIP (a much more costly and fully featured version for businesses) at CBS Sacramento, so I’m working in the same ecosystem across the board. 

The only headache is I have to reattach images to posts, and fix posts with custom slideshows—my page design archive is a puddle of URLs and short codes at the moment. 

But now I have a much better setup for posting and sharing things, which means I’ll be full of ambition and ready to write so much more. 

And then I’ll come back in September and this will be my most recent post.