This Op-Ed by Nicole Malliotakis originally appeared in the Brooklyn Reporter
When I entered the state legislature in 2011, I couldn’t believe the amount of paper wasted every day. Hundreds of pages of different drafts of bills are put on our chamber desks, sent to our offices, and placed in meeting rooms of the various committees we serve on, despite most legislators reading the bills beforehand and oftentimes electronically.
I have long been a conservationist—a nature-loving, outdoorsy type who over the past three years has coordinated multiple community clean-ups and anti-litter campaigns in my district, as well as a legal attempt to save 15 acres of natural beauty at Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House on Staten Island from overdevelopment.
So to me, it’s unjustifiable and shameful that in the 21st century, with the technological advances we have, we are still printing thousands of pages that often end up untouched and in recycling bins across the capitol.
The reason for all this paper and printing is an archaic provision in the New York State Constitution that requires laws to be printed and sit on each legislator’s chamber desk for at least three days before being voted on. This allowed for ample time for the language to be reviewed before casting a vote, a needed provision in the 19th century, but not in the 21st! Its purpose could easily be fulfilled today with a laptop, iPad or even cell phone!
The good news is that we can finally change this antiquated requirement with your help! On the ballot this November 4, there will be a constitutional amendment that would allow the legislature to distribute bills electronically rather than in print.
If passed, the environmentally-friendly measure would abolish the antiquated requirement that hard copies of legislation be placed on the desks of elected officials prior to a vote, allowing bills to instead be e-mailed to state legislators for review. In fact, all legislation is already available online, so the transition would be a simple one.
With nearly 2,000 bills taken up annually, plus thousands of additional pages during the state budget process, the astronomical amount of money spent on paper and printing hinders many priorities that need funding. A paperless legislature would help the government save tax dollars (potentially tens of millions of dollars), while protecting the environment at the same time.
I truly hope that all New York residents see the importance of Ballot Proposal #2 and join me in supporting its passage this November. Together, we can shape the future of New York by choosing environmentally-friendly measures that also greatly benefit our taxpayers.