New York City has passed the first law in the nation requiring that any low-income resident facing eviction have legal representation. Historically, landlords in the city have counsel in 90 percent of such cases while only 1 to 10 percent of tenants do; this can lead to distortions in legal outcomes, especially where tenants have legitimate arguments that could stop or postpone an eviction, or make the process less disruptive. Fewer unwarranted and sudden evictions can also prevent homelessness and other crises, and therefore potentially lower public social services costs significantly. The law will be implemented in phases over five years.
A new initiative will ensure that as many of Idaho’s citizens as possible are able to testify at public legislative hearings without having to be present at the statehouse. Under the pilot program, residents living outside the Boise area will be able to use video-conference technology to weigh in on bills up for consideration without having to shoulder the burden of traveling a long distance. Local universities and community colleges are providing their video equipment and expertise at no cost. Other states that currently allow remote testimony include Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
To help ease California’s growing homelessness crisis, Los Angeles County is looking to residents’ backyards by making it easier for homeowners to build small units on their properties, whether in their garages, as additions to existing homes, or as new, freestanding structures. Under the limited pilot program, homeowners can receive up to $75,000 to build a structure, or $50,000 to convert an existing structure — and take advantage of a streamlined permitting process — if the unit is then rented out to a homeless family or individual.
Rhode Island has joined a growing number of states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts, which are requiring parents to attend a class about the rules and restrictions for teen drivers. Parents are often the most influential figures to a teen when it comes to driving, and young drivers have a historically high accident rate. The goal of these measures is to ensure that parents, schooled in proper driving habits and licensing restrictions, will better coach and mentor their children. Critics counter that mandatory adult classes are burdensome and unnecessary.
To encourage more mothers to feel safe and comfortable breastfeeding and pumping, New York City has opened up five lactation pods — one in each borough — for new moms to use. The mobile suites are equipped with benches, a table, an outlet to plug in a breast pump, and a lockable door. The pods are targeted for communities with low breastfeeding rates and complement a law passed last year requiring certain city offices and service centers to provide a designated room for nursing mothers. The city plans to open up more pods in other high-trafficked areas.