How to Go Paperless? Not a Simple Task for the NYS Legislature

It seems they can’t see the forest for the stacks of paper on their desks….

“Even though legislators are enacting fewer laws, they are printing up a storm — 19 million pages every two years, including the full text of all bills.

Bill after bill is stashed under desks, where each remains, occasionally kicked but seldom read.”

~Thomas Kaplan,  “Albany, Long Buried in Paper, Resolves to Save a Small Forest
New York Times, August 10, 2013

At first glance, eliminating the automatic generation of paper copies in the Legislature is a seemingly straightforward change.  After all, at least 50% of legislatures across the US, have moved to using digital copies for all legislation, including Hawaii, which estimates that its move to electronic printing has saved over 1,000 mature trees per year.  Cost reduction – to the tune of over $50 million per year – should be enough to prompt the change.

And yet, its not that simple.  It has been widely reported that the NYS Constitution mandates the printing of all bills- changing the process will require NYS voters to approve an amendment during the general election on November.   But that’s not all.

Consider the behavioral changes that will be required to make this happen.  “We’ve always done it this way.”  “Its tradition.”  Assemblywoman Sandra R. Galef of Ossining, NY (who first proposed digital distribution in 1997) she’s even heard, “the presence of computer screens might mar the historical aesthetics of the legislative chambers.”  In fact, the printing may be purely symbolic at this point. The NY Times reports that the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission’s print shop prints eight pages of legislation on each page, four per side.  It is somewhat difficult to accept that print of this size can be legible– although a move to save paper, it implies that these printouts are focused on meeting the letter of the law rather than providing a readable copy for the legislators.

And what about the jobs held by the employees of the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission’s Print Shop?  Or the paper mills that supply the paper?  The industry employs  more  16,000 workers in New York, according to the American Forest and Paper Association. And International Paper of Ticonderoga, NY has actively lobbied against the bill, saying it threatens essential jobs in the North Country.

Going paperless seems a simple, straightforward choice  – with clear benefits in time and cost savings, as well as providing major environmental benefits, including reduction of trees used to generate the paper, and the reduction in waste.  But as we see in our own daily business activities, the path to paperless is not always as simple or as easy as it seems on the surface.

Are you or your office going paperless?  Do you agree or disagree with the NYS Legislature’s move to go paperless?  Share your thoughts with us here – we’d love to have your input!

Want to learn more about how to go paperless, without pitfalls and stumbling blocks?  Contact our expert staff today – we will work with you to devise a plan to fit your needs, helping your business to use less paper, save time, and save money.

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