State of Humor: What you can learn from your state government if you follow closely

It makes sense that there’s humor lurking behind the desk of government bureaucrats but I recently got a front row seat. Through FastDemocracy, I now get daily press clips from government agencies across multiple states. What have I learned so far? Birds are getting drunk in Missouri, I can adopt captive desert tortoises in Utah, Florida has (shockingly) found you should be drinking more orange juice, I could have should have, would have bought a bison in Wyoming, and there is a smart cat in South Carolina dedicated to teaching me to wash my paws properly.  

Let me explain. 

As a government relations professional, I need to follow state press releases. I can learn about the latest COVID-19 numbers and strategies and come to understand changes to state Supreme Courts and vital economic initiatives county by county. That said, I find it completely delightful when I can easily find what I need and find a reason to smile. Hence the reason I make sure my daily brief never misses the department of conservation and always includes a variety of state agencies. 

Check out two of my recent favorites below and sign up for FastDemocracy to get the inside scoop. 

INTOXICATED WILDLIFE, Missouri Department of Conservation 

The friendly little bird known as the cedar waxwing often gets drunk off fermented berries in the spring and tumble from their perches. Most are unharmed but they aren’t alone in their boozy escapades. Apparently wasps can also become tipsy when feeding on rotten fruit. How can I tell? According to the Missouri Department of Conservation the wasps will “buzz around on their backs for a few seconds while their rapid metabolism cleanses the alcohol from their systems.” I feel better informed already. 

South Carolina ETV announces new Smart Cat education initiative, South Carolina ETV Commission

I knew it. South Carolinians are tried and true cat people. As such, it should come as no surprise that they’ve found a way to help combat COVID-19 through a new cat animation dedicated to teaching young folks how to wash their hands. I’m not sure I needed to watch the whole video but I did and I’m better for it. Thank you South Carolina.

Heading into session? Here are 3 things you can do to get prepared.

Every year before the legislative session formally begins, there is a sense of urgency and apprehension. What will be the priorities? How will the parties fracture? Anyone who tells you they know exactly what to expect is absolutely lying. 

There is only one thing that truly helps keep the nerves at bay and your goals in sight. Being prepared. 

That’s not a cliche– it’s a warning, but it’s actually not as ominous as it sounds. In the world of politics, preparation comes down to making sure you’ve got the right players on your team firing on all cylinders. For some organizations, that might mean finding the right contract lobbyists. For those running point under the dome, this means doing as much work to coordinate with your team as possible. 

Here are three things you can do now to make sure you’re prepared for the start of legislative session

  1. Collaborate with your communications team. Using FastDemocracy, I make sure to have files shared under my known affirmative and know opposition bills as early as possible so that my communications team can independently create content related to legislative happenings, and, because we are on the same platform, I know that they are up to date with where the bill is in the process. 
  1. Coordinate with coalition lobbyists. I double check to make sure that all my bill lists on FastDemocracy are shared with my partners and prompt them for their feedback if needed. This way, I’ll have everything in one place for that quick meeting  with a legislator and be ready to pivot from one topic to the next in a blink without running to find my colleague or desperately searching through my email inbox. 
  1. Share with community supporters. Working in the nonprofit space, I can’t overstate the importance of coalitions. However, coordinating coalitions is time-consuming and time is never easy to come by. With FastDemocracy, I cut through the noise by sharing information in a widget on my webpage. That way supporters, donors, and coalition partners can subscribe and follow along rather than wait for my call. 

So get your tools ready. Fire up your bill tracker and talk to your people and know this– with the right team in place, working together, you can be the small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens ready to  change the world.

What’s Next?

What's Next?Despite lawsuits by the Trump administration, it should be abundantly clear that we are in a moment of transition to a new administration. Your vote took work and it mattered. For many, the post election phase feels like a moment to recover. For those that govern, the work has really just begun. 

Civil servants are stepping up to fill their roles. The incoming Biden administration has a vast team of individuals ready to implement their policy agenda. Elected officials across the country and across parties are doing the same. As a voter, I’m left to wonder– are we ready?

We elect officials to represent us. Elections are seen as inflection points, report cards for if an official is up to the task but what if we didn’t bottle up the power of the people and distill it to just a vote. What if instead, we flexed the people’s power year round and became part of the governing process? 

Elections do not equal representation– accountability does. 

We must transition from voters to organizers and become as invested in the political outcomes we seek as the politicians we support. 

I’m not sitting back after this election, I’m staying vigilant. Using FastDemocracy, I have the government at my fingertips.  I’ll be digging deep on legislative analytics as newly elected representatives take their seats. I’ll be combing through historic legislative data to pick up on where the hotspots of legislature are unresolved. Why? Because my vote isn’t my only power. I have the power to be informed. The power to organize my peers. The power to shape the governing process to reflect the will of the governed.

My first step is to log into FastDemocracy and set my priorities. My focus is simple– I want to be able to track legislation I care about, compare my issues with my elected’s voting record and, when there is a failure of alignment, I want to be ready in the wings to hold my elected official. I’ll be using FastDemocracy to tag the votes I care about, see where my representative landed, and follow up directly with their office. I’ll be telling my friends to do the same. We cannot passively wait for good governing to happen, we have to put the people back in the process. 

We campaign far too hard to let our elections run on a boom and bust cycle. My ability to be a changemaker rests on my understanding of government.  

This election Americans woke up to engage in unprecedented numbers. What’s next? Governing with unprecedented input. We owe it to ourselves to hold elected officials accountable. Let the work of governing begin.

Written by Sara Baker, Chief Innovation Officer at FastDemocracy

Our commitment to pursuing racial justice

Today on Juneteenth, we celebrate freedom and progress while recognizing there is still much work to be done. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Michael Brown, Jr., among too many others, starkly demonstrates once again that our Black friends and neighbors have yet to achieve equality and justice. We can do better as a country and it starts with making sure all of our institutions are accountable. 

Our company is new. We are navigating our place and we are sure to make missteps along the way, but right now we know our role is to be an ally, to listen and learn, to raise up the voices of our BIPOC community, and to give what we have in pursuit of justice. 

In this moment, we are donating services to organizations that stand strong for racial justice. We are first committing to five organizations in our home state of Missouri to begin our work as allies. We stand with Black communities and we loudly and unequivocally state that Black lives matter.

In solidarity,

The FastDemocracy Team

FastDemocracy releases first round of analytics for the 2020 Missouri Legislative Session

The Missouri General Assembly wrapped up its 2020 legislative session on Friday, May 15. FastDemocracy is releasing our first round of legislative analysis focusing on floor votes taken during the legislative session.

The Missouri Senate took a total of 89 floor votes this session. Thirteen senators were present for all 84 votes. Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis missed the most votes with a total of 27 absences, or 30.3 percent. Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, had the most absences compared to other Republican senators. Riddle missed 18 votes, or 20.2 percent.

The House of Representatives took a total  of 146 floor votes during the 2020 legislative session. Twenty-seven representatives were present for all 146 votes. Rep. Noel Shull, R-Kansas City, racked up the most absences in the chamber, missing 142 votes, or 97.3 percent. Across the aisle, Bob Burns, D-Affton, missed more votes compared to other Democratic colleagues. Burns missed 72 votes, or 49.3 percent.

Complete data on 2020 individual legislator voting records can be found in the tables below.

Click here to look up who your state representative and senator are and to learn more about their legislative voting records.

 

Vote Counts for Missouri Senate 2020 Legislative Session*

Last NameFirst NamePartyDistrict No.Yes VoteNo VoteAbstainAbsent
ArthurLaurenDemocratic178081 
BernskoetterMikeRepublican6821 6
BrownJustinRepublican1683114
BurlisonEricRepublican20612611
CierpiotMikeRepublican886 2
CrawfordSandyRepublican288711 
CunninghamMikeRepublican3387 11
Curls**Shalonn KikiDemocratic92   
EigelBillRepublican23672011
EmeryEdRepublican318261 
HegemanDanRepublican1288 1 
Holsman**JasonDemocratic72   
HoskinsDennyRepublican2183411
HoughLincolnRepublican308711 
KoenigAndrewRepublican158351 
LiblaDougRepublican2584311
LuetkemeyerTonyRepublican348711 
MayKarlaDemocratic4646 19
NasheedJamilahDemocratic5537127
O’LaughlinCindyRepublican1883411
OnderBobRepublican2711017
RiddleJeanieRepublican10682118
RizzoJohnDemocratic118531 
Romine**GaryRepublican32   
RowdenCalebRepublican1981 17
SaterDavidRepublican2987 11
SchatzDaveRepublican2687 1 
SchuppJillDemocratic2474816
SiftonScottDemocratic18081 
WallingfordWayeRepublican278531 
WalshGinaDemocratic13694115
WhiteBillRepublican3288 1 
WielandPaulRepublican228351 
WilliamsBrianDemocratic1481512

*Final vote counts for the 2020 Regular Session.

**Senator resigned midway through legislative session.

Vote Counts for Missouri House of Representatives 2020 Legislative Session*

Last NameFirst NamePartyDistrict No.Yes VotesNo VotesAbstainAbsent
AldridgeRasheenDemocratic787828139
AllredVicRepublican13120125
AndersonSonyaRepublican13114321
AndrewsAllenRepublican114024
AppelbaumLaDonnaDemocratic71944426
BaileyDottieRepublican110116624
BakerBenRepublican160124139
BangertGretchenDemocratic691162613
BaringerDonnaDemocratic8211729  
BarnesJeromeDemocratic28118262 
BasyeChuckRepublican4713826
BeckDougDemocratic9210838 
BillingtonHardyRepublican152130133
BlackRustyRepublican7140312
BlackJohnRepublican137145 1
Bland ManloveAshleyDemocratic269039314
BondonJackRepublican5614042
BosleyLaKeyShaDemocratic796532148
BromleyBobRepublican1621406 
BrownPaulaDemocratic709925319
BrownRichardDemocratic27110351 
BurnettIngridDemocratic19883919
BurnsBobDemocratic93659 72
BusickDannyRepublican31071128
ButzSteveDemocratic811082711
CarpenterJonDemocratic15794720
CarterChrisDemocratic766028157
Chappelle-NadalMariaDemocratic869433118
ChipmanJasonRepublican120130115
ChristofanelliPhilRepublican105131132
ClemensDougDemocratic72934535
ColemanMary ElizabethRepublican97127316
ColemanJeffRepublican3213646
CuppsScottRepublican158130313
DeatonDirkRepublican159135101
DeGrootBruceRepublican10113088
DinkinsChrisRepublican1441451 
DoganShamedRepublican9813313 
DohrmanDeanRepublican5113835
EgglestonJ.Republican214141
EllebrachtMarkDemocratic171222211
EslingerKarlaRepublican15514213
EvansDavidRepublican154133 13
FalknerBillRepublican101397 
FishelCraigRepublican136132311
FitzwaterTravisRepublican4913835
FrancisRickRepublican145123 23
GannonElaineRepublican1151451
GrayAlanDemocratic75913817
GreenAlanDemocratic67922529
GregoryDavidRepublican9613718
GrierDerekRepublican1001337 6
GriesheimerAaronRepublican61125120
GriffithDaveRepublican601451
GunbyTrishDemocratic9911333 
HaahrElijahRepublican134137  9
HadenKentRepublican4314123
HaffnerMikeRepublican551397
HanneganTomRepublican65131312
HansenJimRepublican40134318
HelmsSteveRepublican13513673
HendersonMikeRepublican11714222
HicksRonRepublican10213637
HillJustinRepublican108130133
HouxDanRepublican54144 2
HovisBarryRepublican14613835
HudsonBradRepublican13814231
HurstTomRepublican6249961
IngleKeriDemocratic35114302
JustusJefferyRepublican15613925
KelleyAnnRepublican127145 1
KellyHannahRepublican14113835
KendrickKipDemocratic4511623 7
KiddBillRepublican20128513
KnightJeffRepublican129132 14
KolkmeyerGlenRepublican53144 2
LavenderDebDemocratic9088499
LovascoTonyRepublican6411630 
LoveWarrenRepublican1251001144
LynchSteveRepublican122144  2
MackeyIanDemocratic87100433
MayhewDonRepublican1211406 
McCreeryTracyDemocratic889947 
McDanielAndrewRepublican1501043111
McGaughPeggyRepublican391421 3
McGirlMikeRepublican1181415
MeridethPeterDemocratic806451130
MessengerJeffreyRepublican130421103
MillerRockyRepublican12413547
MittenGinaDemocratic83934229
MoonMikeRepublican1575393 
MorganJudyDemocratic24773534
MorrisLynnRepublican1401431 2
MorseHermanRepublican15114231
MosleyJayDemocratic68106355
MuntzelDaveRepublican48136  10
MurphyJimRepublican9413475
NeelyJimRepublican811822 6
O’DonnellMichaelRepublican951441 1
PattersonJonathanRepublican3013817
PersonMichaelDemocratic741093016
PfautschDonnaRepublican33143 3
Pierson Jr.TommieDemocratic66101441 
PietzmanRandyRepublican4111612 18
PikePatriciaRepublican126144 2
PlocherDeanRepublican89123221
PogueJeffRepublican143813413
PollittBradRepublican5213862
PollockSuzieRepublican1231091324
PorterJeffRepublican421451  
PriceWileyDemocratic84803630
ProudieRaychelDemocratic7310520813
QuadeCrystalDemocratic13293503
RazerGregDemocratic2511729
ReedyRodgerRepublican571406 
RehderHollyRepublican148123617
RemoleTimRepublican614411
RicheyDougRepublican3814051
RiggsLouisRepublican5146 
RobertsLaneRepublican1611422 2
RobertsStevenDemocratic77964631
RodenShaneRepublican111128819
RogersWesDemocratic18106382
RoneDonRepublican149118424
RossRobertRepublican14213412  
RowlandRoryDemocratic2910027118
RunionsJoeDemocratic376917 60
RuthBeckyRepublican1141451 
SainMattDemocratic14772742
SaulsRobertDemocratic2110519121
SchneltingAdamRepublican1041355 6
SchroerNickRepublican107119720
SharpMarkDemocratic36109361
SharpeGregRepublican414312
ShaulDanRepublican113137  9
ShawanJeffRepublican15395447
ShieldsBrendaRepublican111441 1
ShullNoel JRepublican164  142
SimmonsJohnRepublican10911516312
SmithCodyRepublican16312899
SolonSheilaRepublican9134111
SommerChrissyRepublican1061411 4
SpencerBryanRepublican63118253
StacyDanRepublican31129161
StephensMikeRepublican128116129
StevensMarthaDemocratic4610145 
SwanKathrynRepublican14713637
TateNateRepublican119783 65
TaylorJeredRepublican139130151
Toalson ReischCheriRepublican44127118
TrentCurtisRepublican13313844
UnsickerSarahDemocratic9197481 
VeitRudyRepublican591354 7
VescovoRobRepublican112131411
WalshSaraRepublican50131771
WashingtonBarbaraDemocratic239227423
WiemannJohnRepublican1031433
WilsonKennethRepublican121226117
WindhamKevinDemocratic8583351315
WoodDavidRepublican5813637
WrightDaleRepublican11614015
YoungYolandaDemocratic22108326

*Final vote counts for the 2020 Regular Session.

 

Vote counts were updated with the final vote tallies on May 22, 2020.

 

Masks, gloves, and your keyboard: Tips for shaping your government in the time of COVID-19

masks, gloves, and your keyboardWe get it. These are strange and uncertain times, especially in terms of how you can engage with the government and keep safe. You need a product built on the founding mission that government should be transparent and that technology should put government at your fingertips. With FastDemocracy as your digital partner, you can still be a successful advocate, even from home. Here’s how:

1.       Stay in touch.

Even when your state government isn’t meeting publicly, the work continues. Use the “contact your legislator” feature on the FastDemocracy platform to remind legislators about what’s important to you and share updates on how changing concerns directly impact your family. Use our news feature to look up your legislator and see them “in the news.” This will let you know if they are working hard or hardly working.

2.       Compare responses.

Responses to COVID-19 vary significantly state to state. While approaches range from tepid to robust, knowing how your state compares can help pressure your state government effectively. 

Knowing how your state stacks up, also allows you to be innovative. See a good idea in Michigan? Why not try that in Wisconsin? Imitation is the highest form of flattery. If it works elsewhere it might, with a few tweaks, work for your state too and you have the added benefit of learning from what worked (and didn’t) for other states to perfect your advocacy. Use our “compare bill” feature to see commonalities across the country. 

3.       Hold them accountable. 

Your legislators are working in extreme circumstances, in masks, in small numbers on the floor of their chambers, and, problematically, often without public access. However, you can still hold them accountable. Use the voting records feature on FastDemocracy to follow along with what your elected is doing. Let them know that you are watching them (even while socially distant!) and that you plan to inform your community about their voting record during the primaries and general election. With FastDemocracy, you can search for voting records by topic, by bill, and both. FastDemocracy combs through thousands of pages of voting records, so you don’t have to but you can be the check on power your government needs.  

When the Government Goes Dark

The actions of governments at a local, state, and federal level are meant to be public. Their votes and voices as they debate issues of vital interest to their constituents are meant to be heard, meant to prompt accountability from voters come the next election. But what happens when the government goes dark?

Right now, we are witnessing government action without public input. In the rush to address urgent needs presented by COVID-19, the core values of open and transparent government are stymied. 

Government has not innovated enough to be digitally democratic. 

At a local level, it’s through yard signs, facebook events, and flyers left rubber banded to doors where residents learn of new open forums. At the state level, most live debate is not recorded on video, often it is even a struggle to find a room that is video equipped (provided the lawmakers themselves do not wish to avoid the inconvenience of being watched). At the federal level, we have better resourced watchers, with CSPAN and the national press corps hard at work, yet when the lawmakers themselves can’t enter into chambers without masks, gloves, and social distancing- what are we missing behind the scenes? 

If we want government by the people and for the people, we must allow people access to government, even, and perhaps most urgently, in times of crisis.

When this pandemic ends and we find our new “normal,” will that normalcy include a technological revolution? A prioritization of government transparency so that no official remains inscrutable? That’s unlikely. Doing so would shift power away from elected officials who, through limiting information,  shape the narratives we consume. 

We have to fuel the technological revolution through industry innovation. Force government transparency by making votes accessible by topic, force accountability by informing the people when their input can be most effective, take the vast resource of machine learning and become predictive about the behaviors of elected officials so we can stay in front of the curve. In this time of darkness, where governments approve budgets in the shadows, hold elections in chaos, and sacrifice open government for expedient government, legislative analytics platforms are key players. They must pioneer solutions to allow us, the people, to remain as watch guards of liberty.

State governments advance legislation to address COVID-19 crisis

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to play out across the world and people everywhere are looking to make sense of this unique, chaotic situation, many Americans are keeping their eyes glued to the news to stay updated on what the president and Congress are doing to keep us safe. The federal government has recently passed three bills in an effort to keep the Americans safe and blunt economic damage caused by the global pandemic. Most recently, President Trump signed the CARES Act, a bill worth $2 trillion to prevent a large-scale economic fallout.

While action on a national level is undoubtedly necessary if the government is to provide safety for Americans and their savings, states are also working to make an impact through not only their gubernatorial actions but also the movement of bills through their legislatures. Here are some of the actions being taken across the United States to combat coronavirus. You can learn more about what your state legislature is doing to address the COVID-19 crisis by signing up for free email updates at FastDemocracy.com.

1. Waive K-12 requirements due to COVID-19 closures

Because of the need to avoid large gatherings in the coming months, a number of states have been working to pass bills that will allow schools to conduct classes online, while other states have put a pause on instruction altogether until the coronavirus situation has slowed. In order to take pressure off both instructors and families, some states have brought up legislation that will reduce the mandatory number of hours of instruction that students must receive each week.

2. Mandating insurance companies provide testing without co-pays

Given that the coronavirus has been deemed a national emergency, many states are taking action to make sure health insurance companies cover the cost of coronavirus testing. The driving idea behind this is twofold – first, to ensure that dealing with coronavirus is not cost-prohibitive, and second to stop the virus from spreading further across the larger population.

3. Temporarily change unemployment eligibility requirements

As a result of mandatory quarantines and the inability of many businesses to continue turning a profit when customers are remaining at home, state legislatures across the nation are making it easier for workers who have been laid off to access unemployment benefits. Early access to unemployment benefits would assist impacted workers maintain financial stability.

4. Preventing eviction and foreclosure during COVID-19

Because many Americans are currently finding themselves unable to go to work, concern regarding the payment of rent and utilities is growing. As such, some state legislatures are ensuring that those affected by the economic implications of the virus do not end up without a home. This legislation does not necessarily waive rent, mortgage, or utility payments; it just prevents eviction and foreclosure or the threat of eviction or foreclosure while the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing.

5. Halt debt collection

With unemployment claims rapidly increasing,
so are workers’ concerns about their ability to meet financial obligations. To
further assist workers impacted by the economic slow-down due to coronavirus, some
state legislatures are considering legislation that would pause debt repayments
in order to help Americans avoid bankruptcy.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, state and local governments have been on the forefront of proposing policy solutions to help prevent the spread of the virus and assist affected workers and families. Because of the large impact that state legislatures can have in the fight against COVID-19 by passing bills like those listed above, it is now more important than ever that American citizens stay current on what is happening in government at all levels. You can learn more about what the state and federal governments are doing to address the COVID-19 crisis by signing up for free email updates at FastDemocracy.com.