Senate Passes Sweeney Measure To Create ‘Paperless’ Chamber

Effort Could Pay for Itself Before End of Legislative Session

TRENTON – The Senate last night passed legislation Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Republican Leader Tom Kean sponsored to implement technology to rid the Senate chamber and committee rooms of the wasteful stacks of printed bills and amendments and move to a paperless format.

“If people really want to see wasteful spending, they need to look no further than the countless reams of paper used by the Senate in the course of routine business,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “From the stacks of legislation on every desk to the ritual of passing around printed amendments, the Senate burns through literally tens of thousands of dollars in paper every year – most of which is never even read. There’s no need for us to waste this much paper when everything can be done electronically.”

The Sweeney/Kean legislation (SR-48) changed the Senate rules to accommodate the move to a paperless chamber. Senate rules previously required all official business to be conducted via paper.

“The State Legislature still uses, for all intents and purposes, methods dictated by the technology of the 18th century,” Kean (R-Union/Essex/Morris/Somerset) stated. “By updating the technology now, the taxpayers will save money and this body will produce much less waste. This resolution is a win for everybody.”

The leaders pointed to the experience in Hawaii’s 25-member Senate, which went paperless in 2008. In its first two years, the Senate reported savings of more than $1.2 million and enough paper to save 800 trees.

The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services has already begun examining the technological needs to upgrade establish a wireless network in the Senate chamber and committee rooms that would give members access to all legislation and proposed amendments from ­­laptop computers.

“The rising price of paper and the dropping prices of technology mean the Senate’s upgrade could pay for itself before the end of this legislative session,” said Sweeney. “This move will save taxpayers untold amounts of money over time.”

The new rule passed by unanimous voice vote and took effect immediately.