Capitol Alert

Project to make searchable database of California legislative hearings

Then-Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, cups his ear as he listens to a question concerning the results of the May 2009 special election at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)
Then-Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, cups his ear as he listens to a question concerning the results of the May 2009 special election at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli) AP

There are thousands of hours’ worth of California legislative committee hearings available for viewing – if someone knows where to look. By next spring, though, it could get a lot easier to track down the quotation needle in the testimony haystack.

The Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy, a California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, think tank headed by former Republican lawmaker Sam Blakeslee, has received $1.2 million for its Digital Democracy project from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Using voice-recognition technology, Digital Democracy will let people search committee-hearing video archives by keyword, topic, speaker or date. The project’s goal is to help policymakers, the media, and others to better track what happens in committee, where bills often undergo significant changes or promises are made of future ones.

A beta form emerged earlier this year that covers testimony during spring budget hearings. A search for “in-home supportive services,” for example, returned 100 clips featuring then-Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, and other speakers.

Digital Democracy users will be able to quote past committee testimony and “show the power of technology to open doors into the (California) Legislature,” Blakeslee told Government Technology magazine. A goal over the coming months is to narrow the results people receive, to ensure they get only the most germane, he said.

Other planned Digital Democracy features include campaign finance and lobbying information, as well as committee membership and voting records.

A formal announcement of the $1.2 million grant is scheduled for later this month.

Call Jim Miller, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow him on Twitter @jimmiller2.

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