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Carl Smith  |  Senior Staff Writer

Email : carl.smith@governing.com

Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. For the past 30 years, Carl has written about education and the environment for peer-reviewed papers, magazines and online publications, with a special focus on conservation and sustainability. He has guest-edited special issues of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health focused on the Precautionary Principle and the human rights dimensions of environmental degradation. Carl attended the University of Texas and the University of Georgia.

THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Mayors: How COVID Changed the Future of Their Cities

The 2020 Menino Survey of Mayors examined the social, public health and economic impacts of COVID on American cities, and the ways it has changed the future of work, transit and racial inequities.

December 4, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

As COVID Vaccine Nears, States Set Rules: Legislative Watch

The availability of a proven COVID vaccine may be weeks away, but many Americans remain wary. State lawmakers have introduced bills to address its administration, including the boundaries of enforced immunization.

December 4, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

How Government Officials Delivered a Disaster-Free Election

Despite fears that COVID, cyberattacks and misinformation might jeopardize results, voting was smooth and secure. What contributed to this outcome, and how might lessons learned affect future elections?

November 25, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Lawmakers Deal With Latest COVID Surge: Legislative Watch

State legislatures have introduced more than 300 bills since October to deal with a litany of COVID-related problems, including ICU funding, liability shields, reauthorization of electronic public meetings and more.

November 20, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Most Secure Election Ever: Vote-by-Mail Is Here to Stay

Amber McReynolds and her group, the National Vote at Home Institute, played a major role in the success of the general election. She talks about lessons learned, and the future of vote-by-mail.

November 17, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Money to Keep Small Businesses Alive: Legislative Watch

Hundreds of thousands of small businesses have closed because of the pandemic. A surge in new cases and unresolved election results are casting shadows on their year-end prospects, but recent bills offer help.

November 13, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Legislative Turnover at Lowest Level Seen Since 1920s

Republicans continue their dominance at the state level, with Democrats failing to take chambers ahead of redistricting. Two chambers leaders were unseated, while several states saw demographic breakthroughs.

November 6, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Nationwide Ballot Measure Results to Watch: Live Updates

Despite the pandemic, there are dozens of measures that have made it on to ballots nationwide. They range from abortion and police reform to redistricting, taxes and transit. Here are key results.

November 4, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Eight Reasons Not to Expect Quick Election Results

All sides agree that naming the winners can’t come too soon, but complex and unique factors at play make quick results unlikely. Still, election officials are sticking to procedure to ensure fairness and accuracy.

November 3, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Live on Webcams: Election Officials Count 2020 Ballots

To boost voter confidence, election officials in numerous counties are taking transparency to the ultimate level, installing live cameras in the rooms where ballots are sorted, verified and counted.

October 30, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Stemming a Restaurant Industry Crisis: Legislative Watch

Take-out and delivery helped restaurants hang on during the pandemic, but a new wave of cases stands in the way of a return to pre-COVID operations and revenue. Legislative proposals aim to help.

October 30, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Nonpartisan Service Takes Voters to the Election Finish Line

As if navigating every choice on a ballot isn’t enough of a puzzle, voters are confused about how and where to vote. A team of tech experts and researchers has created a one-stop resource to guide them.

October 27, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

State Lawmakers Respond to BLM Protests: Legislative Watch

A bill celebrating the late actor Chadwick Boseman is one of many efforts states have undertaken to turn calls for racial change into legislative action. The BLM protests have turned into the country’s largest movement.

October 23, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Will Voters Give Public Transit a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Transit officials are monitoring voter enthusiasm for a host of ballot measures they see as essential to economic recovery, supporting essential workers, social equity, climate goals and preventing traffic nightmares.

October 22, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Helping Small Businesses Bounce Back: Legislative Watch

They employ almost half of all private-sector workers. The pandemic has hit them hard, especially Black and minority-owned businesses. Legislators want to help them bounce back with grants and other assistance.

October 16, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

States and Localities Intensify Voter Education Before Election

Election officials are working to ease public confusion about changes in the voting process, and to counter campaigns undermining trust. High- and low-tech strategies are helping to reduce worries.

October 13, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Relief for Struggling Tenants and Landlords: Legislative Watch

A first round of eviction protections is winding down, and tenants and landlords alike are at significant financial risk. Numerous state legislatures are chipping away at this dangerous instability.

October 9, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF Work

Supply of Election Poll Workers Rises as Demand Increases

This year’s election will require more than 1 million workers to assist voters. The pandemic was expected to suppress the number of volunteers, but innovative and creative recruiting drives have boosted the supply.

October 8, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF Security

Understanding Foreign Interference in the Election

A new Rand report explores ideas and practices used by Russia and other hostile states to sow doubts about the election. The insights could help state and local government better understand and respond to the problem.

October 2, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Shoring Up Health Insurance During COVID: Legislative Watch

Too many Americans are losing health insurance coverage and gaining debt as a consequence. State legislators have put forward a variety of proposals to help citizens stay covered during a health emergency.

October 2, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Can New Research Help Reduce the Impact of Wildfires?

In the last 15 years, scientific studies have overturned common knowledge about the behavior and consequences of wildfires. A leading researcher discusses how it can help guide future efforts to protect both people and forests.

September 30, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Child Care and Economic Recovery: Legislative Watch

Remote learning and reduced, or no, in-person instruction can keep working parents off the job. A number of recent bills attempt to fill the child-care gap.

September 25, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

The Line Between Protected Assembly or Riot: Legislative Watch

A handful of recent protests have involved enough violence and property destruction for some to claim they are riots. Legislators have proposed penalties and protections for those who might be affected by future incidents.

September 18, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

All Rise: Virtual Court Is Now in Session

Guided by an administrative judge with an engineering degree, a Texas county has led the way in making remote court proceedings a reality, including the nation’s first virtual jury trial.

September 16, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Lawmakers Get Tough with Mask Requirements: Legislative Watch

New Jersey and Pennsylvania would make the refusal to wear a mask a crime. It’s a sign that consensus regarding the value of mask wearing has grown, but states are still unsure on both guidelines and penalties.

September 11, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

States Act to Limit COVID-Related Liability: Legislative Watch

Lawmakers have introduced dozens of shield bills that limit COVID-related liability for businesses, schools and caregivers, as the pandemic has sown divisiveness and rancor, creating a fertile ground for lawsuits.

September 4, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Rural California Transit Agency Reinvents Itself During COVID

Carl Sedoryk, CEO of Monterey-Salinas Transit, explains how his agency went from moving not just people, but also food and medical services, while providing Internet service for families as the pandemic upended bus service.

August 31, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF Community Design

Will the Outdoors Become the New Classroom of the COVID Era?

Outdoor learning can slash the odds that in-person classes will put staff or students at risk of contracting the coronavirus. A national coalition is developing guidelines and resources to help schools in any climate.

August 28, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

COVID Prison Disaster Prompts Reform Bills: Legislative Watch

With the highest incarceration rate in the developed world, America’s overcrowded prisons have become hotbeds for COVID-19. Now, the virus has accelerated efforts already underway by lawmakers to reform prison policies.

August 28, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Affordable Housing Crisis Prompts States to Act: Legislative Watch

Massachusetts, Nebraska and Minnesota are among numerous states where legislation has recently been introduced to address the affordable housing deficit. Some bills are more concrete than others.

August 21, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Paradoxes of the 2020-2021 School Year

It’s never been more apparent that schools don’t just educate; they also buoy the stability and emotional health of communities. Since July, state legislatures have introduced numerous bills to keep things afloat.

August 14, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

It's Uncomfortable: A Mayor's Life During the Pandemic

What’s it like to be a front-line government official in the COVID era? The mayor of Hattiesburg, Miss., talks candidly about "awful moments,” as he navigates a pandemic, an economic meltdown and racial tensions.

August 12, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Clearing a Path for the General Election

Voting by mail may have started during the Civil War, but the template for the 2020 general election is being created in real time. Legislators are working to bring clarity to vital details.

August 7, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Support for Housing the Homeless Continues as COVID Rages

Federal money and innovative housing-first programs have provided much needed support for the nation’s half-million homeless. But with the pandemic continuing, helping this vulnerable population will remain a challenge.

August 5, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Addressing America's Eviction Crisis

COVID-19 cases are on the rise, and citizens can't shelter in place if they're evicted. Legislators in some states are proposing moratoriums on evictions for as long as a year after the end of the health emergency.

July 31, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Immigrant Rights, Social Justice and Post-Pandemic Planning

Sonja Diaz, a lawyer and scholar, talks about immigrants, who are disproportionately represented among essential workers but have received little in the way of COVID-19 aid. The pandemic has left them in limbo.

July 30, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

New Hampshire Opens Its Roads to Flying Cars

Gov. Chris Sununu has signed a bill making the Granite State the first in the U.S. to allow flying cars onto its public roads. Pilots will be allowed to drive from airports to their final terrestrial destination.

July 28, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Containing the Impact of the Pandemic

COVID-19 has already hit state and local government hard, and it’s still spreading at a time when it had been predicted to recede. Legislators are trying to keep up with the consequences with a range of new bills.

July 24, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

How Can Local Government Address Systemic Racism?

Peniel Joseph, one of the nation’s leading civil rights scholars, has studied and written about the history of race and democracy. He has some ideas on how cities and urban areas can begin to dismantle racism.

July 23, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Does Every Emergency Call Require Police Response?

Less than 10 percent of police responses involve a violent crime. Rethinking policing involves more than how police behave on the job. Often, they may not be the right people to answer calls of distress.

July 20, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Homelessness in the COVID Era

It's a health risk at any time and one that disproportionately affects Black individuals and families. During a pandemic, it's an unacceptable burden. Legislators are looking at ways to better cope with the problem.

July 17, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: States Start Dismantling Systemic Racism

The national conversation about racism isn't about individual acts of violence or harassment, but about systems that perpetuate injustice. In the wake of recent protests, legislators have responded.

July 10, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Why Is Punishment the Favored Path to Public Safety?

Legal experts are questioning our current system of “law and order” based on punishment. They are calling for restorative justice programs that can demonstrate how investments in accountability yield rewards.

July 9, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

When the Disenfranchised Use Counter-Narratives for Justice

Allissa Richardson, a pioneer in mobile journalism, discusses the emergence of smartphones and social media as tools to fight back against the mistreatment of marginalized citizens by law enforcement.

July 2, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Pandemic Spotlights Senior Care Problems

Residents of senior care facilities are particularly vulnerable to the most damaging effects of COVID-19. Recent legislation aims to prevent lack of resources or bad practices from making things worse.

June 26, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Smartphone Journalists Accelerate Push for Social Justice

Thanks to better video technology and the expansion of social media, citizens now have the means to monitor, disseminate and expose acts of police brutality. They are forcing the country to rethink policing practices.

June 23, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Addressing Suicide in the Time of COVID

Dramatic increases in suicide rates had attracted attention well before the unprecedented stresses of the pandemic. Legislators are proposing measures to keep a bad situation from getting worse.

June 19, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Reopening the Economy Under COVID-19: Tracking Containment

All states have begun phased reopening. An updated version of an earlier Governing resource page provides new maps that offer instant insight into progress toward COVID-19 containment in each state.

December 4, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Protests Trigger Police Reform Efforts

To date, dozens of bills and resolutions have been introduced by legislators to address shortcomings with police training, qualified immunity and racial profiling, including the use of facial recognition technology.

June 12, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF Work

Can Tech Help Public Health Manage COVID with Fewer Workers?

Public health agencies have steadily lost workers since the 2008 recession. Tech can help address some of the biggest demands from the pandemic, but humans and better funding are still badly needed.

June 11, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: COVID-19 and the Digital Divide

In a socially distanced world, citizens who most need online support and resources are least likely to be able to access them. Recent bills on the digital divide, including broadband, are addressing the problem.

June 5, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF Work

Government Falls into a Recession and Job Cuts Soar

The last recession pummeled the government workforce. Now, the pandemic has hit and once again, layoffs have become a fact of life. But not every state and local government is cutting jobs to stanch revenue losses.

June 3, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: The Cannabis Industry in the Age of COVID

Whether used for medical reasons or recreation, cannabis is a multibillion-dollar industry that could play a role in a post-pandemic recovery. Legislators have been addressing regulatory details.

May 29, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Can Tracing Help Health and Privacy?

Bills that address contact tracing take aim at the costs related to testing and tracking COVID-19 infections as states reopen. Others tackle privacy concerns and ensuring tracer workers reflect community diversity.

May 22, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: New School Year Is a Tough Assignment

Public schools face a litany of problems relating to COVID-19 that include significant drops in funding, distribution issues for school lunch programs, lack of broadband access and bus driver protection.

May 15, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

States Need to Hire More COVID-19 Contact Tracers

Currently, the country has hired just a fraction of the contact tracers needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus and help the economy return to life. Experts say a national workforce is needed.

May 12, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Pandemic Fuels Growth of Telemedicine

COVID-19 has accelerated demand for telemedicine services. Recently, state legislatures have introduced bills that provide remedies for issues such as reimbursement and credentialing that have slowed implementation.

May 8, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Reducing the Tax Burden for Everyone

Despite a huge drop in revenues, states are taking some measures to relieve pressure on taxpayers and have introduced bills that extend filing deadlines, remove penalties and limit certain liabilities for now.

May 1, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Green Power, Firearms, John Prine

Despite widespread disruption to session calendars, state legislators still find time to address matters other than the pandemic, an illustration of how the wheels of democracy keep turning.

April 24, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Reopening the Economy Under COVID-19: States Plot a Way Back

Governing is building a 50-state map to visualize the changes underway to declare states “Open for Business” even as the coronavirus remains at large across the country.

May 22, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

The 2020 Elections: Is America Ready to Vote by Mail?

The pandemic has raised concerns about keeping this year’s voting process healthy and safe. Allowing voters to send in their ballots by mail could be the answer, but it will be costly and some worry about potential fraud.

April 20, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Rethinking the Limits on Absentee Ballots

The need to protect public health in the remaining primary elections, and uncertainty about the state of the coronavirus pandemic in November, are forcing legislators to consider changes to voting guidelines.

April 17, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

America’s Largest Municipal Utility Invests in Move from Coal to Hydrogen Power

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is pursuing a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by including the world’s first utility-scale hydrogen power plant in its energy mix.

April 15, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: Extending Relief During the Pandemic

State lawmakers continue to address wide-ranging consequences of the pandemic with bills that focus on various remedies to the financial burden on workers and their families placed by government work restrictions.

April 10, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Legislative Watch: The Rise of Drones During the Pandemic

The range of applications for unmanned aerial vehicles has grown in recent years and, with COVID-19, their purpose could cross into more sensitive areas, such as security and surveillance, according to research.

April 3, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

How a County Is Managing a Marijuana Green Rush from Space

Using satellite imagery, California's Humboldt County has found an effective way to deal with unpermitted and illegal cannabis-cultivation operations and reduce their environmental impact.

March 30, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Legislative Watch: Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic

State legislatures have introduced more than 200 bills relating to COVID-19 since the beginning of the year to address public health issues only government can handle. Here’s our rundown.

March 27, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Legislative Watch: Paper Files, Bots and Deepfakes

State lawmakers are tackling new digital threats to elections and public trust by banning voting bots and criminalizing deepfakes; meanwhile, in New Jersey, a legislator wants to bring an end to paper records.

March 20, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

Election Meltdown: How to Ensure Voting Integrity in 2020

Richard L. Hasen, one of the nation’s leading experts on election law and campaign finance regulation, talks about what state and local officials can do to reduce potential abuses and disruptions during the 2020 election.

March 19, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

California’s 'Salad Bowl' Recharges Depleted Aquifer

A multi-partner water recycling project is helping Monterey, Calif., stabilize and replenish its dwindling groundwater supply. The project could serve as a model for shrinking aquifers in other regions of the country.

March 9, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

What States Can Do to Improve Broadband Access

New research from Pew Charitable Trusts points to the need for involvement from all levels of government to help close a digital divide that has left 21 million Americans without broadband access.

March 5, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

5G Explained: What Government Leaders Should Know

The newest generation in wireless networking represents a major boost in both capacity and speed, opening the door to transformative public services. But the technology is both costly and controversial even as states and localities begin to legislate and regulate around 5G.

February 14, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Will EV Adoption Become California’s Next Economic Engine?

A new study details dramatic economic benefits and large cuts in carbon emissions for California from the impact of electric vehicles over the next 10 years. Other states can profit from the lessons learned.

February 12, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

Lack of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations a Growing Concern

High costs, driven by permitting, building code and regulatory red tape, could hamper growth of stations needed to power the EV market, but some states and localities are starting to change the status quo.

January 30, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Next

The Battle Over Technology and Energy Consumption

Insatiable demands for data have triggered startling projections on how much electricity is consumed to power the Internet. But technology itself — along with strategic regulations — could keep our energy needs in check.

January 28, 2020
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THE FUTURE OF What’s Happening Now

California Farms Launch Nation’s Largest Dairy Biogas Project

Farms from the state's Central Valley have teamed up with Southern California Gas to convert cow manure into renewable natural gas, in response to a 2016 state law to reduce dairy greenhouse emissions by 30 percent.

January 21, 2020
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