To address a backlog of criminal cases stemming from conduct occurring in New York’s Rikers Island prison complex, the Bronx District Attorney’s Office is opening a satellite office at the site to expedite criminal cases against inmates and visitors, while the public integrity unit will remain in charge of handling cases against officers. The new office will house 30 people, including assistant district attorneys, investigators, and support staff who will be responsible for prosecuting crimes committed on Rikers Island, such as contraband smuggling, arson, and stabbings.
Delaware is closing in on the adoption of blockchain technology to assist companies doing business in the state to better handle their corporate documents. Blockchain, touted for its security and low costs, is the open technology employed by Bitcoin, which allows users to make and verify transactions automatically, encrypting data as network users share information from an open digital ledger. The state is working on using the technology to distribute, share, and save corporate documents such as ledgers and contracts, allowing more ease of access to these materials for a company’s constituents, shareholders, and employees as well as allowing for longer retention periods. The Delaware Public Archives will use the technology to archive and encrypt government archives later this year.
In Florida, officials in Miami Beach are reconceptualizing how to approach their public communications as expressed through street signage to emphasize messages that are more positive. Often street signage can look like a series of stern “nos” which can create an unnecessarily forbidding atmosphere. The city commissioner has arranged an audit to determine the content and number of signs citywide and see where adjustments can be made. An example would be to replace a sign that says "No bicycles" to "Pedestrians only." The commissioner believes that messages framed in a positive manner can also encourage a better response from both residents and visitors.
Following San Francisco, Seattle has become the second city in the nation to enact a “secure scheduling law” to protect some worker schedules from being changed with short notice. Taking effect in July 2017, the new law will require that food service and retail businesses that have over 500 employees provide their workers with two weeks’ advance notice if there is a change in their work schedules, with changes leading to extra pay for more sudden changes. In addition, workers are to be granted a minimum of 10 hours between shifts, and employers need to offer any available hours to existing employees before hiring more people. Critics observe that the measure may force businesses to cut jobs or hours in order to comply.
Early next year, commuters arriving at St. Louis County MetroLink stations in Missouri will have the opportunity to receive basic health screenings as well as be connected if needed to a primary care physician and to options for health care coverage. The move is funded by a grant from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration to find innovative ways to use transit to connect people to health care. St. Louis will use the grant to bring a mobile medical clinic to the transit stations six hours a day, four days a week, and the health screenings will include blood pressure, body mass index assessments, and perhaps basic blood tests to gauge cholesterol levels among other things.
France has become the first nation to ban disposable plastic cups, plates, and utensils. The new law is set to take effect in 2020 and will be part of France’s Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, which has already set a ban on disposable plastic bags throughout the country. The law will only allow exceptions for tableware made of compostable, bio-sourced materials. The goal of the law is to further promote a “circular economy” of waste disposal, from product design to recycling. Critics note that the law may be in conflict with existing EU legislation concerning the movement of goods.