One of the ballot measures facing New York voters this election day has the potential to eliminate what advocates say is millions of dollars in waste by requiring the legislature to go paperless.
According to language in New York’s constitution dating back to 1938, all bills up for consideration placed before lawmakers must be printed on paper. Now, New Yorkers could vote to make Albany go digital.
Proposition 2 would require the bills to be distributed electronically. The most vocal cheerleader for the change has been Capital Region Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco of the 112th District.
Over the past several years, Tedisco has pushed for the measure, posting photos of towering stacks of papers on lawmakers’ desks.
After a debate Monday evening, Tedisco was confident the amendment would pass.
“It’s a win-win-win. We’re going to save $53 million a year, get rid of all that paper, all that printing, all that waste. We’re going to save [those] pristine trees, and Mother Earth is going to be smiling when that passes. And we’re going to be more effective and more efficient.”
Tedisco's estimate includes the $13 million required to print the paper bills, and another $40 million to dispose of them.
The measure to modernize has been met with little opposition. The League of Women Voters online voter guide reads, “The League of Women Voters of New York State could not identify any organizations or expressed opinions in opposition to this amendment.”
When the measure was before lawmakers, the state Senate voted unanimously to approve the measure. In the Assembly, only one lawmaker voted against it.
That lawmaker, Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer, a Democrat from Yonkers, said her symbolic vote against the bill wasn’t because she was opposed to going digital.
“Whether the bill is on paper in a readable form, or online in a readable form, the point is it needs to be in a form where legislators and staff actually read the bills. The fact is the paper on our desk in the Assembly is not in readable form, and that’s a very valid complaint. But I always am concerned as we move to a more paperless system that there could be a tendency to be less mindful that the words on the page really mean something.”
Other statewide ballot questions include an amendment to revise the state’s redistricting procedures that has split good-government groups and a question on whether the state could borrow up to $2 billion to help upgrade and enhance technology in public and non-profit schools. Election day is November 4th.