I did some quick Google news searches for the Super Bowl and the State of the Union. If you think, as I do, that we’ve heard way more than enough about both of these over-hyped events, you are correct. Google news searches returned 661 million results for the Super Bowl and 533 million for the State of the Union. The political nickname for the president’s annual speech – the SOTU – returned 81,800 results. That alone is far more than the 22,900 results I received for the more important news of “Legislature begins.” In a year or two, most of us won’t be able to remember the winner of the 2014 Super Bowl. We’ll have to “Google it.” With Denver and Seattle adopting marijuana as their newly preferred state vices, one comic suggests that people in both cities won’t remember who won this year’s Super Bowl 10 minutes after it is over. And most of us have already forgotten whatever President Obama said. I seem to recall it had something to do with “action,” which I think was another way of saying, “I want to be relevant!” Nevertheless, we’ve gone through another month we won’t get back with the media showing us meaningless shiny objects. Unless you work very hard to avoid it, your head has been filled with mush. Oh yes, the Farm Bill saga – which returns 3.66 million Google news search results – is about to be over, with the Senate vote this coming week followed by a Rose Garden signing ceremony. The nearly 1,000-page Farm Bill is “hideously complex” and deserves all the smart analysis it can get. This brings us to the state legislatures. They’ve been called the “laboratories of democracy.” As of today, 39 states have seen their state legislatures gaveled into session for 2014, according to the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NCSL says only Nevada, Texas, Montana and North Dakota have no regular session plans for 2014. Connecticut, Wyoming, Arkansas and Minnesota will begin their sessions in February, followed by Florida and Louisiana in March and North Carolina in May. Local TV might give these opening sessions 20 seconds of airtime, and there are a few daily newspapers with state house reporters who still work the capital beat for news. Increasingly, the best state capital information sources are found in the digital media. For anyone who is willing to do with less of the NFL in their head and wants to accept that not much actually happens in Washington, D.C., the state houses produce more “action” than any of our president’s pens or telephones. (As usual, we are looking forward to the president filling out his bracket for March madness, so one of those pens will become important.) But, in 2011 to 2012, NCSL reports that 42 states and Puerto Rico passed 196 new statutes involving food and agriculture alone. Many of these came as no surprise to Food Safety News readers because we’re scooping up safety-related food news at the state level wherever we can find it. We’ve covered the cottage food movement, which has swept across the country from California to South Carolina. Pesticide licensing, Asian carp and honey regulations are among a wide span of topics we’ve covered at the state level. And there are staple subjects such as legislation regulating everything from raw milk to food handling. If readers will only look for it, digital media such as Food Safety News are doing a better job with many aspects of statehouse reporting than was done in the “good old days.” State legislative sites are some of the best in government, offering almost instant access to bills, amendments, fiscal notes, committee calendars and reports and like documents. Better still, many states are live-streaming their committee meetings and floor sessions. This enables us to cover legislative stories from multiple state houses on the same day. This does not mean that we do not need local sources on the ground because we most certainly do. Many times, food safety-friendly association members who are closest to whatever is occurring tip us off to something happening at the state level. We also need cooperation from state lawmakers. We’ll send you emails and call your offices for comment, but that only works if you get back to us in a timely manner. So whether it is 10 minutes or 10 months before we all forget who won the 2014 Super Bowl, or whether the SOTU has become a meaningless exercise, state food safety laws have a very long shelf life, and we are going to continue to keep you up to date on those.

  • Oginikwe

    “Nevertheless, we’ve gone through another month we won’t get back with
    the media showing us meaningless shiny objects. Unless you work very
    hard at it, your head has been filled with mush.”

    Amen to that, Mr. Flynn.

    I’ve always been confused about why such large blocks of our citizens don’t understand what is going on with so many issues that impact them. Too many people don’t even understand how our government works or is supposed to work. Two early eye-openers for me were “Laying Waste” by Michael Brown and “Toxic Sludge is Good For You!: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry,” by John Stauber & Sheldon Rampton. Then came Michael Pollan’s books, then Marion Nestle’s books, then documentaries of all stripes on food and water, all learned about on the Internet. Most recently, it was Michael Moss’s “Fat Sugar Salt,” and Melanie Warner’s “Pandora’s Lunchbox” whose book reviews I read online. With the exception of Brown, all of these people may be heard somewhere on the Internet.

    I guess that takes a free and open Internet to the top of the list. It would be a sad day when we all have to pay multiple charges to read Food Safety News. Net neutrality for all!

    Net Neutrality 101: http://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-101
    Net Neutrality Worksheet: http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=1234951
    Background on Net Neutrality: “Goodbye Open Internet” http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7BFB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665%7D/GoodbyeOpenInternet.PDF