California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has unveiled a new website that allows citizens and other interested parties to search, view, and share video clips of state legislative sessions. Digital Democracy provides this information through a web dashboard that steers people to hearings on topics of interest, plays the conversations, transcribes what is said, and identifies the speakers. The website was developed over the past two years in partnership with the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Officials hope that the Google-like video search will increase citizen engagement and perhaps lead to greater voter participation. Developers have also designed the tool so that it can be replicated in other statehouses.
Florida, Indiana, Nevada, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia have partnered in a pilot program to streamline the placement of children across state lines, often so that they can go live with relatives. Ordinarily, assisting a child to move from one state to another involves conflicting state regulations, extra bureaucracy, and other hurdles that can delay transfers to over a year. The National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise, supported by a grant from the federal government, has involved the development of a national electronic web-based system to improve efficiency in the administration of child transfers. Since the pilot has commenced, placement times have been cut between 20 and 40 percent, advancing the ultimate goal of putting children in safe, stable homes.
In the wake of dozens of overdoses and four local deaths linked to opiate overdose so far in 2015, the police department of Gloucester, Massachusetts, has announced a novel program that treats opioid addiction like a disease, not a crime. Under the program, any addict that arrives at police headquarters will receive an “angel” to walk them through the process of detox and recovery, even if they are carrying paraphernalia when they come through police doors. Although the county district attorney is reviewing the details of the plan, addiction services advocates approve the move, noting that those who take the step to request help from the police are more likely to be motivated to complete their treatment. Since June 1, 17 addicts have entered treatment in this small community. Seized drug money will also be used to pay for Narcan, the drug used to reverse opiate overdoses.
It has become increasingly difficult for low-income or under-insured people to book appointments with health-care specialists without waiting weeks or months. In response, local officials in Los Angeles County have created a program called eConsult to streamline the referral process. Under the program, physicians and specialists interact online, triaging those who need immediate appointments and those who can continue to receive primary care for the time being. While the three-year-old program has not solved all problems, providers and participants note that it has alleviated some of the burden, as well as lessened the need for these patients to use emergency rooms to receive the treatment they need. Officials in Illinois, Alaska, Connecticut, and elsewhere have expressed interest in the program.
Many states are expanding voting access to their residents through a variety of means. For example, a near majority of states currently allow online voter registration, as compared to 2008, with some states making the websites mobile-friendly. California, Delaware, Minnesota, Missouri, and Virginia now allow citizens without a state identification or driver's license to register to vote online. Many states are accommodating residents who have disabilities or difficulty with English with tools such as text-to-speech software. States are also continuing to become more adept at analyzing voter data to identify trends.
Washington's DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, in partnership with the Department of Public Works, has unveiled a public art initiative that will transform recycling trucks into mobile public art works. Under Designed to Recycle, winning artists will see their two-dimensional art printed on vinyl and wrapped on city recycling trucks. Ten recycling trucks are due to be “wrapped” by the end of the summer.