The Arizona Senate is trying to go paperless, which means relying on laptops instead of printed documents during debates and votes on the floor.
The goal is to save money by cutting down on all the paper on which thousands of bills, notes, amendments and other documents are printed each year. Last year, the Senate paid $20,000 for paper and $10,000 for print toner, according to Senate comptrollers.
A paperless test run on Feb. 17 went well, with a few minor hitches.
A few senators, for instance, had trouble viewing some of the electronic documents that they normally receive in paper form.
“I just couldn’t find where the fact sheet is,” said Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Republican from Snowflake. “This whole time, I had been pushing on everything under the sun. I couldn’t find it.”
Allen figured it out after a few minutes of fumbling with her computer.
“I know where it is now, and I know how to get to the amendments,” she said. “So I’m ready to go.”
The Senate then voted on a bill that modifies felony classifications of incest. The bill was approved with an amendment – the amendment’s language was printed on paper, just in case.
The next day, the Senate tried the laptop-only system again with a larger calendar of bills. There is no deadline for the Senate to go completely paperless.
“We’ll try to get everybody paperless,” Senate President Bob Burns said. “(But) I think we have to let people come on and be comfortable.”
Burns said using the computer software to track bills will reduce paper consumption, avoid unnecessary duplication of amendments and save time because Senate pages won’t have to distribute a whole of paperwork.
What he wants to make sure is that members will have information they need in case their computers encounter problems, the Senate President said.
“Hopefully at some point, we could get it to where we won’t need to have the paper for back up and we will be able to use the computers, and be a little more efficient, I think, and also be certainly a lot less costly,” he said.
The software and computers that the Senate is using has been in place for some time. In the past, not all of the members used it.
Sen. Richard Miranda, a Democrat from Tolleson, said he likes the change.
“It’s easier,” he said. “It’s less use of all these papers.”
Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a Democrat from Phoenix, said he has been using the program for a while now.
“We need to stop wasting so much paper,” he said.