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Bills And Angry Birds: Legislature Goes iPad To Save Both Money And Paper

Jim and iPad.jpg
Erin O'Toole

The Colorado legislature prints millions of pieces of paper each year, costing the state thousands of dollars. But that could soon be a thing of the past.

In an effort to cut down on costs, this year the state gave all 100 lawmakers a new iPad. So far it seems lawmakers are on board with the idea of reading and studying pending legislation on the tablet.

Count Democratic senator Mary Hodge of Brighton among them. “I love them. I think they’re going to be the answer.” She says it’s so convenient for keeping track of bills. 

“Not having to look something up in your drawers. Not having to have someone file your stuff. Having it with you all the time, it’s going to be a miracle,” says Hodge. “And I’m old and I‘m not very tech savvy and I’m happy.”

So just how much paper and money can an iPad really save?

According to TheDenverChannel.com reports in May 2010 the excessive use of paper at the state capital became a major issue of concern for Colorado lawmakers. It was reported that 2.5 million sheets of paper had been used in that session alone. Every member in the house and senate gets a copy of each of the 600 bills introduced during a typical legislative session. Lobbyists, the media and the general public can also pick up printed copies. Then there’s the daily journal, and event calendars.

Republican senator Kent Lambert of Colorado Springs serves on the joint budget committee and notes that the state’s budget bill alone can be up to 300 hundred pages long. Still he says he hasn’t been using his iPad much because budget bills are slower to go online.

“I’m not able to use that information on an iPad before it’s briefed to the budget committee,” says Lambert. He thinks it’s a good technology and he’d like to expand its use to other areas of state government though.

“We’re going to have a conversation about district attorneys for instance. They have to provide a lot of paperwork and a lot of evidence to public defenders. And that’s a very expensive proposition, many millions of dollars. If we can transition to a more electronic environment other branches may save.”

Even thought technology is catching up with the lawmaking process, the state is still printing paper copies of everything. But in future years that will change; legislative leaders say printing hard copies will likely only be on a case by case basis.

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