The Senate passed a new bill this week that would further digitize legislative and state agency paperwork, potentially saving taxpayers millions of dollars while supporting the environment. The bill (S.4149-a) would implement the “Legislative Online Paperwork Reduction Act,” with the goal of ending unnecessary printing by making bills, reports, audits and transcripts publicly available online.
The state Legislature creates a vast amount of paperwork because Section 88 of the state Public Officers Law demands records be made “available for public inspection and copying.” These records include, but are not limited to, bills and amendments, fiscal notes, messages from the governor, memos between lawmakers, transcripts of minutes, reports and audits.
Senator Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, sponsors the bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 57-0. Tedisco hopes his bill will stop the practice of printing every record by having them available online.
“This is a win for taxpayers by promoting greater government efficiency and a win for the environment by reducing the amount of ink-filled paper that ends up in our landfills,” said Tedisco.
At least 18 other states have worked on similar legislation, including Ohio which has saved $1.5 million since digitizing. Tedisco’s office notes that the savings in New York would likely be higher due to a higher volume of paperwork.
This is not the first legislation aimed at reducing paper waste that Tedisco championed. He has sponsored numerous bills over the years encouraging the digitization of bills and other government paperwork.
Dating back to 1938 the state Constitution mandated the printing of bills for distribution, preventing new technology such as tablets and laptops from being used. While he was an assemblyman in 2014, Tedisco strongly supported Proposition 2, which made digital copies of bills sufficient.
It is estimated that Proposition 2 has saved taxpayers $13 million per year in addition to drastically reducing the amount of paper consumed in the Capitol and Legislative Office Building.
Tedisco is also sponsoring a companion bill called the “Digital Home Act” (S.2883-a) that would enable local governments to get competitive grants up to $10,000 to digitize their communications and record-keeping. The municipality would be responsible for matching funds equal to 25 percent of the grant. That bill is currently in the Senate Finance Committee.
These grants already exist and are awarded by the New York State Department of State’s Local Government Assistance Program to municipalities that save money.
Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, who also sponsored Proposition 2 in 2014, is sponsoring this bill (A.7962-a) in the Assembly, currently in the Ways and Means Committee.