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Promising new tool will allow public to easily search the dealings of Sacramento lawmakers

Jessica Paterson

Your ability to easily search California legislative hearings—complete with full audio transcripts—is about to take a big leap forward.

A $1.2 million grant to Cal Poly's Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy (IATPP) will help fund this program, called Digital Democracy.

This first-in-the-nation system will work by using voice and face recognition software to convert video files of state government meetings into searchable text-based documents.

The Institute's founder and former San Luis Obispo County legislator Dr. Sam Blakeslee will oversee the project. He says it will help California citizens become and stay better informed.

"This funding is going to launch an entire new type of tool which will transform how people learn about what’s happening in government," said Blakeslee. "The potential uses of this tool are phenomenal because it empowers people to see what’s actually happening, in their name, in the halls of government."

Users will also be able to explore campaign contribution data, including financial relationships between lawmakers, lobbyists, unions and companies.

An early version of the system could be ready by this spring, says Blakeslee.

The grant was provided to the IATPP by the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation.