Article by Mike Heavican, Chief Justice, Nebraska Supreme Court and 2012 CSG Toll Fellow

The core mission of all courts is the delivery of justice in a fair and timely manner. Justice may be as mundane as paying a traffic fine or as significant as protecting the constitutional rights of an accused in a capital case. Increasingly, “fair and timely,” both in paying those traffic fines and in protecting the rights of the accused, depends on technology

When it comes to emergency communication, no one size fits all.

That was the recurring theme during the State Emergency Communications session Sunday morning.

Today, The Council of State Governments joined The National Emergency Management Association and eight other organizations representing state and local government officials to urge Congress to consider key principles while developing legislation to protect the nation’s information infrastructure.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a cyber-security bill last week and the Senate is currently considering a bill which is expected to come to a vote later this month.

The organizations called on Congress to consider...

Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill ending the stalemate over the payroll tax cut and assorted entitlement programs, and the Senate quickly followed suit. But the details of the bills paint an interesting picture of the political landscape as we approach the 2012 election cycle, and what may be even more important to states, the Lame Duck session of Congress that will follow it.

The bill passed by Congress would keep the payroll tax rate at 4.2 percent through 2012, instead of springing...

In 2008, two North Carolina college students from two the state’s flagship universities were murdered. The alleged murderers were no strangers to the criminal justice system. But because of the fragmentation of information in the state’s criminal justice system, it was hard to connect the dots on the alleged murderers. Department of Correction cases are identified by an identification number, the sex offender registry uses separate identification numbers and court cases have yet another number.  North Carolina made the best of a bad situation. The murders led legislators to order the creation of an integrated data system. The result was the Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services program—CJLEADS—an Innovations award winner for the Southern region.

Missouri’s SB 54, the "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act," doesn’t go into effect until this coming Sunday, August 28, but the law’s student-teacher social media ban is already facing a legal petition from the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA).  The law was intended to protect students from abuse by making it illegal for students and teachers to have private conversations on social media channels, but the MSTA’s petition raises several potential issues with the current scope of the law. 

NPR has published a story exploring the pros and cons of allowing children to join social networks like Facebook. As the article notes, most social networks have a cut off age of 13, in accordance with privacy protections mandated by the Children's Online Protection Act of 1998.  Protecting children online is also a policy priority of several state leaders, such as Kentucky's Attorney General Jack Conway.  The AG's website contains an entire section on cyber saftey, including a list of tips for parents and kids detailing proper precautions to follow when using social media.

This Act requires wireless telecommunications carriers disclose the location of cell phone callers when such callers use their cell phones to make emergency calls. The Act directs that no cause of action shall lie in any court against any wireless telecommunications carrier, its officers, employees, agents or other specified persons for providing call location information while acting in good faith and in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

This Act directs public safety agencies to establish and use a database of information about people with disabilities or special needs to help such agencies respond more effectively to such people. 

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, The Council of State Governments supports the development of national standards for a public safety broadband network to ensure that technical requirements for access to, reliability of and performance of the network are consistent across the country.