On election day, voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to allow New York’s legislature to go paperless. Advocates hailed the vote as a victory for the environment, saying it would cut down on waste. But the paper industry disagrees with the message being sent.
The passage of proposition 2, which will allow bills sent to the New York legislature to be distributed online, was heralded by the measure’s leading advocate, Assemblyman James Tedisco.
The Capital Region Republican spoke to WAMC on election night, touting the change’s environmental and financial benefits.
“We’re going to get all that waste and paper and ink in the landfills. We’re going to save our pristine forest land. It shows that Republicans do care about the environment and do care about the taxpayers.”
Tedisco, who first introduced a version of the bill in Albany in 2011, has said the paperless proposition would save New York taxpayers $53 million a year, estimating the cost of printing and disposing the printed bills. Prior to the measure’s passage, the New York constitution required all bills presented to lawmakers to be printed on paper.
But not all are celebrating the message coming from Albany, including New York’s paper industry.
Donna Wadsworth, spokeswoman for International Paper’s mill in Ticonderoga, NY, said the rhetoric surrounding the paperless provision during the campaign season contrasts with how the company works with landowners and loggers to use sustainably harvested wood.
“New York forests are healthy and provide an abundance of wood for the forest products industry, which means jobs and economic impact.”
Last spring, EDC Warren County’s annual luncheon was a salute to the papermaking and forest products industry of the region.
Ed Bartholomew, President of EDC Warren County, told WAMC then that regionally, 2,500 workers are employed in papermills, and also mentioned the other businesses supported by the upstate forest products industry.
"From lumbermills, sawmills, loggers, and truckers, to repair shops that make up significantly economic development for our area," added Bartholomew.
International Paper’s Ticonderoga mill employs about 615 workers.
Wadsworth said she doubts Albany will go entirely paperless.
“We would like to think that our legislators will do what many of us do when we want to give thoughtful consideration to a document, and that is they will print it out, highlight, make notes in the margins and use paper. But I think the most important message is that trees are a renewable resources and that using paper preserves working forests and open spaces.”
Wadsworth said she did not know how much paper manufactured by International Paper is used in Albany.
The Glens Falls Post Star reports that in 2013 Glens Falls-based Finch Paper lobbied against a bill in Washington that would allow drug companies to provide product information over the internet instead of on printed paper.