This is a sampling from Bay Area News Group's Political Blotter blog. Read more and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/politics.

Sept. 9

Politify, a Berkeley startup that created a public-policy simulator to tell people which presidential candidate's tax and budget plan would be better for their households' and neighborhoods' financial bottom line, is back with a new name, a new round of funding and a contract with the state of Massachusetts.

What used to be Politify is now Outline. "Think of it as SimCity, but for real life," co-founder and CEO Nikita Bier said in a news release.

Outline's budget simulator lets anyone perform what-if analyses, such as manipulating tax rates or health care spending, then see the projected effect to themselves and their communities. To construct the model, a team of data scientists and economists from MIT, UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois spent the past year merging millions of anonymized federal tax returns and public census records.

When an Outline user "endorses" a policy, that endorsement can be viewed by public officials who can then shape policy proposals according to citizen interest. Bier describes this as part of a broader vision called aided representation, where the software determines users' interests and helps them advocate for those interests. "We wanted representation to be simple enough so that it's part of your daily Internet experience."


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The startup just landed an $850,000 round of financing with participation from the Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund, Esther Dyson and the Dorm Room Fund. And it appears to have been the successful bidder for a contract with Massachusetts to license the budget simulator.

More than 4 million people used Politify in 90 days last year to help them gauge President Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's fiscal platforms.

"Politify was a litmus test that showed us Americans wanted to look at government empirically," Bier said. "The difference is that Politify was about showing what government does -- Outline is about showing what government can do."

Sept. 9

Three bills written by a South Bay assemblywoman to protect domestic-violence victims were signed into law Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 157 will make false impersonation via social media such as Facebook and Twitter a trigger for restraining orders. Abusers have been known to take over their victims' online identities to humiliate and harass their victims all over again, often isolating victims and damaging their relationships with friends and families.

Assembly Bill 161 lets courts include in restraining orders a prohibition on domestic violence abusers dropping spouses from their joint health, auto, life and disability insurance policies -- something abusers often use as an intimidation tactic.

And AB 176 provides domestic violence victims the highest level of protection possible by ensuring that police enforce no-contact restraining orders even if other orders have been issued more recently.

The Assembly and state Senate both passed all three bills unanimously.

"As much as we've done to help women escape the horror of domestic violence, much work needs to be done," Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, the bills' author, said in a news release. "Too many women continue to get beaten by their partners, and they suffer even further pain when their abuser exploits social media to target their victims or cancels joint insurance policies.

"These bills will add protections to women who face abuse in their homes and hopefully begin to turn the tide around on domestic violence."