CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Twenty years ago, the overwhelming majority of the American public followed the politics of their own states to some extent, plus a bit of national and international news.
But policy developments in other states were off the radar screen.
Ordinary people in states like West Virginia lived in sort of state-contained policy bubbles. They had no easy way of comparing what was done here with what results were being obtained elsewhere.
Those days are gone.
The Internet gives ordinary people ready access to much more information that turns out to be -- huh! -- very useful to know.
For example, the Pew Center for the States, a division of the Pew Charitable Trusts, operates an online news service, Stateline.org. It serves up a daily roundup of policy developments in all 50 states.
It's an eye-opener, and could very well become a political game-changer.
Weird things are happening in other states -- and quickly.
A few examples:
But in Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, signed legislation requiring voters to show photo IDs, calling it simply "a reasonable request."
The legislation was introduced at the request of Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, a Democrat, and was backed by Democratic and Republican leaders in the General Assembly.
"Voting should be at least as secure as everyday tasks like renting a car or getting a library card that routinely require ID," said Mollis. "Photo ID ensures that poll workers can match a face to the name that voters give them when they obtain their ballots at the polls. The simple act of asking for ID protects the rights of every voter."
In Pennsylvania, the governor signed a bill making it clear that the targets of suits can be held financially responsible for damages only to the extent they were legally responsible for the harm that was done.