Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Tedisco's Cost Saving Future
With the New York State Legislature on pace to introduce a record number of bills this year, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, is suggesting we don't print all those bills so that the state can lower its bills.
Tedisco, who doesn't want to limit the creativity of legislators, mildly endorsed a limit on the number of bills members can introduce, but he argued that a better solution would be to not automatically print every bill that is written.
Tedisco will be introducing legislation that would eliminate the practice
of automatically printing every bill that is introduced, which includes
over 5,000 bills in the Assembly so far this year, and instead providing
digital copies to legislators that can be viewed on laptops and mobile
devices, with the option to print if they want.
“Going digital will stop the waste of taxpayer dollars on needless printing, not too mention its positive impact on our environment," said Tedisco. "With the availability of 2011 technology such as laptops, smart phones and e-reader tablets, there’s no reason why the New York State Legislature should be stuck using the same process that existed 100 years ago." He added that about 95 percent of the legislature could use a cell phone, so adapting to a new system of reading bills would be easy.
It is hard to gauge the entire amount of money wasted on the current system, as there is no detailed printing costs, which I found out after submitting FOIL requests to numerous entities. The Legislative Bill Drafting Commission has a budget in the millions, so it would be fair to say that each year's costs are at least in the millions. Tedisco estimates that the burden could be as much as $26 million.
Going forward, Tedisco said he expects bipartisan support for his proposal, citing a similar plan recently passing the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 399 to zero. He added that 18 other states have implemented a digital plan, with Ohio, a state that produces far fewer bills than New York, saving $1.5 million since they went digital.
Another burdensome printing cost singled out by Tedisco was The Legislative Digest, which he characterized as a 200 plus page pointless redudancy, because it is essentially a weekly reprinting of previously printed bills that the legislators get every week without asking for it. "That's a total waste of taxpayer dollars," said Tedisco.
To illuminate the burden of the Digest, the president of printing company IBT, John Paeglow, said that his company, which was recently stripped of the contract to print the Digest, had done it cheaper. He said that state Legislature didn't have the same printing capacity as his company, so IBT would always be able to provide the service cheaper. Based on a figure from the Assembly Majority and an estimate from Paeglow, IBT prints at 50 percent cheaper a page, which is a difference of about 1.25 cents per page.