December 19, 2011 •
There have been many changes in top legislative staff positions
A post on NCSL’s The Thicket has a list of changes in top legislative staff positions. Even though it is not an election year, there has been an unusual number of replacements among the top staff in many states.
Among these top staffers is Tim Massanelli who is retiring after over 35 years of serving as Arkansas House Parliamentarian and Laura Clemens, clerk of the Ohio House, who has left that position to become director of government affairs for the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
See the full list here.
December 19, 2011 •
Massachusetts Open Checkbook is a very user-friendly transparency website
The Massachusetts state government, like many other state governments, has launched a transparency website to provide citizens with data that they previously could not easily access.
What sets the Massachusett’s transparency website, Massachusetts Open Checkbook, apart from similar websites is their level of detail and the option to view the spending data in different ways.
Some states, such as California, have taken down their websites because after the initial creation of the website, information had not been adequately updated, and the website was not serving the purpose that it was meant to serve.
The Massachusetts Open Checkbook provides different categories and displays a detailed breakdown of their budget on pie charts, making this website possibly the most user friendly transparency website launched by a state government yet.
To learn more, read Massachusetts Puts User-Friendly Checkbook Online by Sarah Rich.
December 19, 2011 •
Adoption of new resolution makes House more open
Friday morning, the Committee on House Administration unanimously adopted “Standards for the Electronic Posting of House and Committee Documents & Data.” Beginning on January 1st, this will allow anyone with access to the internet to now have access to all House bills, amendments, and resolutions for floor consideration. The documents will be formatted in XML schema maintained at http://xml.house.gov.
According to a post on the Sunlight Foundation’s blog, committees will also be encouraged to post their documents on that site in XML whenever possible — and searchable PDFs when not — with the expectation that mandatory publication requirements in XML will soon be imposed. The House will also store video of hearings and markups, and work to implement standards “that require documents to be electronically published in open data formats that are machine readable,” thereby enabling transparency and public review.
The new standards document can be read here.
December 15, 2011 •
Foursquare and NBC are teaming up to create new “Campaigns Check-In” feature
Keeping up with the campaign trails of the 2012 presidential candidates will be a lot easier with the new “Campaigns Check-In” feature that Foursquare and NBC are teaming up to create.
The new feature will appear on the recently launched NBCpolitics.com and will allow visitors to see where each of the GOP candidates are making campaign stops in real-time, and where they’ve been throughout their entire election campaign.
Also, for the Foursquare users out there, you will be able to recieve unique, co-branded political badges from NBC News beginning in 2012.
Learn more in NBC Maps the 2012 Election Campaign Trail With Foursquare by Alex Fitzpatrick.
December 15, 2011 •
Is technology beneficial for ensuring safety or does it pose a privacy issue?
As technology advances, laws, and regulations will have to evolve with it. The concept of privacy becomes very hazy when you are trying to decide if you can track a mobile device belonging to someone who is suspected of a crime. Even today with the new scanning technology utilized by airports which effectively shows images of naked people and has always been surrounded by controversy is used to ensure the safety of airline passengers.
Where can the line be drawn between what is acceptable to ensure the safety of the citizens of the United States and what is a gross violation of personal privacy?
There are also already problems concerning disclosure for online ads on websites such as Facebook and Google. While states such as California and Maryland are among the minority to even take a step in the direction of regulating such political ads, the FEC has disallowed such campaign contributions at the federal level.
Technology is advancing at an incredible rate, and many advancements come with both positive and negative applications.
December 14, 2011 •
Report shows detrimental effects of term limits on Missouri legislature
The term limits approved in Missouri in 1992 that were put into full effect in the House in 2001 and in the Senate in 2003 have been shown by a report from the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri to have had more negative than postive effects.
A post from The Thicket points out that the average within chamber tenure of Missouri legislators in 2011 is about what it was in the 1920s. Additionally, the report claims that the loss of experienced members has resulted in a loss of institutional memory and that due to the term limit, politicians are planning for their next job instead of focusing on their current position in the legislature of doing work for their constituents.
Although the term limits were put into effect to help prevent politicians from abusing their power, are the trade-offs of less focused and experienced politicians worth it?
To learn more, read New Report Says Term Limits Detrimental to Missouri Legislature by Karl Kurtz.
December 14, 2011 •
A divided FEC has trouble deciding on campaign finance regulations
The 6 member Federal Election Commission, split equally along partisan lines, is often seen “hanging each other out to dry”.
In an article posted on Politico, Republican member of the FEC, Don McGahn states, “These public spats we have are very, very healthy. It’s a healthy ugly.” McGahn himself tore pages of regulations out of a book during a hearing, letting the scraps fall in order to prove a point to his Democratic colleagues whom he accused of disregarding their own rules.
With court decisions such as Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission, the FEC has had more trouble than ever making decisions regarding campaign finance, and leaving politicians and their benefactors unsure what regulations they have to follow.
During the upcoming election season, the members of the FEC will have to set aside their differences so that they may set concrete campaign finance guidelines for the United States.
To read more, read FEC dysfunction not just politics, it’s personal by Dave Levinthal and Robin Bravender.
December 14, 2011 •
A new tool is being utilized to pool and organize public opinion surrounding each GOP candidate: Twitter hashtags.
As defined by Twitter, the # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It helps categorize topics and create an interactive conversation about that topic among all Twitter users.
A post by Gilad Lotan on Social Flow provides great insight into what characteristics the “Twitterverse” associates with the GOP presidential candidates.
Hashtags like #GOP and #teaparty are used roughly equally when talking about all GOP candidates, but hashtags such as #gayrights, #flipflop, and #jobs are associated more with Mitt Romney, while #palestine, #immigration, and #abortion are better associated with Newt Gingrich.
Even though less than 10% of the nation is active on Twitter, these associations offer much insight into the public perception of events and the GOP candidates.
December 13, 2011 •
Ohio voters will have the chance to overturn HB 194 in a referendum to be held November 2012
Soon after the successful overturning of Senate Bill 5, the controversial collective bargaining law, advocates of fair elections in Ohio are looking to overturn a second piece of legislation that they have called a “voter suppression” bill.
Supporters of this bill, HB 194, believe that this bill will create a more efficient electoral process in Ohio, decrease incidences of fraud due to absentee and provisional ballots, and effectively utilize technology in elections.
The opponents of the bill, largely Democrats and voting rights activists, collected 307,358 signatures achieving their goal of allowing voters to decide on the fate of the bill. They are opposed to several provisions in the bill, most notably those that shorten the time frame for early voting from five weeks to three weeks, eliminate most weekend voting hours, and drop a requirement that poll workers tell voters when they are in the wrong precinct in a multi-precinct voting location.
Voters will decide on HB 194 in November of 2012, preserving the existing election rules through the 2012 presidential elections which gave Democrats the edge in the 2008 elections when Obama won Ohio by only 4 points.
Read more in this article on Cleveland.com.
September 8, 2011 •
A few good articles on social media
For those of you who may have missed some of today’s relevant social media articles, here are a few for you to check out!
- House lawmakers have returned from the August recess resolved to fight the nation’s cyber adversaries with a flurry of new legislative proposals aiming to boost security of public and private networks and infrastructure. Cybersecurity is the Focus of New Bills
- Nearly a quarter of federal executive-branch websites are unreachable and only about a third use a modern content management system like Drupal or WordPress. Analysis Based on Open Data Finds Many Federal Websites Are Behind the Times
- Press Secretary Jay Carney, who rarely uses Twitter, will answer questions in person at the White House Friday from a group of @WhiteHouse followers who have applied to attend through a web form. The White House’s Latest Tweetup Host Hardly Ever Tweets
- Code for America is sending programmers and other technologists to spend a year in city halls in Philadelphia, Penn., Macon, Ga., and Detroit, Mich. Code for America Will Send Geeks for a Year of Service in Philly, Detroit, and Macon
September 7, 2011 •
California was admitted into the Union 161 years ago
On this day in history 161 years ago, September 7, 1850, California was admitted to enter into the Union as a free state as part of the Compromise of 1850.
Two days after the House passed the bill, President Millard Filmore signed the measure into law, allowing California to enter the union as the 31st state on September 9th.
Read more from The Office of the Clerk.
September 2, 2011 •
A few good articles on social media
- A platform called Change By Us allows anyone from a city agency, not-for-profit, business, community-based organization, block association, and just normal citizens to start a project to improve his or her city. ‘Change by Us’ Connects Citizens to Government
- You can post and vote for questions that will be asked at the GOP debate that will be held in Orlando, Florida on Sept. 22. GOP Candidates to Face User-Submitted Questions in Google/FOX News Debate
- While government apps have starting to appear everywhere, if they are not updated regularly, they become useless and misleading. Agency apps must be regularly updated or face obsolescence
- The White House will soon be launching a tool that will allow the public to float a petition to the executive branch that becomes “searchable” once it accumulates at least 150 electronic signatures, and the White House will issue an official response if it gets 5,000 signatures. With ‘We The People,’ White House Promises to Go E-to-the-People
September 1, 2011 •
New Information links lobbyist expenses with their clients
Eric Brown’s Political Activity Law blog pointed to a press release today, in which Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that information connecting lobbyists’ activities, their compensation, and expenses with each of their clients would now be provided on the city’s lobbyist disclosure database.
Regarding the new data that is now going to be released, Mayor Emanuel said,
“Today I am delivering on a promise to make more lobbyist data available as part of my administration’s commitment to transparency. For the first time ever, we are making city lobbyist data available online that isn’t just numbers on a spreadsheet. This new data ties information together in a way that shows the connection between client, lobbyist and city hall.”
This information is available through the City of Chicago Data Portal. The lobbyist databases include the Lobbyist Agency Report, Lobbyist Gift Report, Lobbyist Categorized Expenditures Report, Lobbyist Major Expenditures Report, and Lobbyist Registry.
August 29, 2011 •
Ohio state representative trades free lunch for good idea
On Ohio.com, the Associated Press report that Ohio Republican state Rep. Marlene Anielski of Cleveland is beginning a contest she named “There Ought to Be a Law” where constituents from her district will be competing for a free lunch provided by none other than Rep. Anielski.
Participants will enter their proposals for possible legislation by September 30th, and whoever provides the proposal Rep. Anielski deems the best will get a free lunch, as well as the satisfaction of their proposal possibly being drafted into a bill.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.