The New York Observer
By Gillian Reagan
Earlier this morning, the New York State Senate launched their new website at NYSenate.gov. On the 14th floor at 250 Broadway, Majority Leader Malcolm Smith introduced the new web portal in front of a giant screen projecting the homepage of the new site.
"We made a commitment when we took over the majority that we were going to put the Senate into the hands of people," he said. "We don't think the 62 senators in the state of New York are just the smart people. We know there are smart people all around the state and all around this country so by using our Twitters, by using our Facebook, by using your interactive communication, we will move New York into the 21st century."
"We believe that we're going to have the best communication device through the social networks than any state legislature in the country," he said.
The Observer's Politicker reporter Jimmy Vielkind has the initial report.
The Senate's first chief of information officer, Andrew Hoppin, a former NASA "guru," as Mr. Smith described him, and his team of tech whizzes have been working on the Web site since January. They have also been training senators and their staff members on blogging, Twittering and how to gather feedback from the site for their decision-making processes, according to Mr. Hoppin. Nine Senators are Twittering so far, including Mr. Smith.
In the NYSenate Markup section, there are eight bills yet to make it on the floor of the Senate. Users can make comments on the bill below the text, which will be discussed in an upcoming public hearing. The site also uses crowd-sourcing tools for propertytaxideas.nysenate.gov, where users can view and vote, up or down, on ideas and submit their own.
The Plain Language M.T.A. Budget, another feature created by Mr. Hoppin's team, translates data and legal jargon from M.T.A. budget documents into readable text, tables and charts to help commuters understand why the M.T.A. board proposed bridge tolls, fare hikes and service cuts.
Last night, the Senate debated the latest M.T.A. budget bill and the discussions were broadcast live on Mogulus, a live broadcasting platform on the Web that is based in New York and which received $10 million in venture capital funding from Gannett Company Inc. last July. Several senators' testimonies and explanations for their votes are now available on the Senate site for review.
After the press conference, Mr. Hoppin told the Observer that his staff is working with Google and their applications to replace antiquated billing and communication services. They are also replacing a news circulation system (that required staffers to literally paste news articles onto paper) and is signing on with Daylife, an online news platform, to distribute articles and share what senators are reading. He also told The Observer that the team is working on exporting raw data reports that the senators use to make their decisions available to the public, along with reportage on senator attendance and voting records, which are currently unavailable on the site.
Mr. Hoppin also announced Capital Camp, an "unconference" with politicians and citizens, to be held on June 5 in Albany to share their process and hear ideas on how to continue to reform government through technology.
"Our new Web site uses technology that brings New Yorkers together," said Mr. Smith in a video posted on the site, and on the Senate's official YouTube channel. "We may not agree on everything. But your ideas need to be heard. You need to know how proposed laws affect your life, what matters to you. Get you know your Senator, and learn how you can be a greater part of the great state of New York. Contact us. We are listening."