DENVER – Colorado’s Legislature is getting more tech-savvy this year – with iPads for every member.
The paper-saving move was approved last year to cut down on printing and filing costs and to increase legislative efficiency. The tablet computers cost about $60,000 – including iPads, covers and software for every member and a few staff members.
Paper copies of pending bills will still be available to lawmakers and the public. But legislative administrators envision a more efficient body of lawmakers. Lawmakers trained with the iPads on Friday.
“If we save paper and we save time and we save money, then great. But this is really about making you more effective,” said Mike Mauer, who leads the state’s Office of Legislative Council.
Colorado is one of 16 states trying to cut down on paper and printing by ordering tablets for some or all lawmakers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Tablets already are used by many Colorado lawmakers. But the Legislature maintains an entire printing shop to keep up with legislation and amendments. State budgets are sometimes the size of phone books.
House and Senate clerks said they envision getting rid of metal file cabinets by lawmakers’ desks that are currently stuffed nightly with printed and updated legislation, agendas and announcements. Lawmakers had mixed feelings about moving away from paper.
“The file cabinet? I bet I can go three weeks without ever opening it,” said Republican Sen. Greg Brophy, one of the Legislature more tech-savvy members.
Talking about his file cabinet, Brophy said jokingly, “I guess that’s what I put my coffee on. I don’t know what else.”
Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman said he liked the iPads but has a few reservations.
“I’m still old-fashioned and like paper,” Steadman said.
Lawmakers will continue to receive state-issued laptops, for now. Those are updated every six years and can be shared with a lawmaker’s staff members, though the iPads are to be used by lawmakers only.
The legislative printing office, across the street from the Capitol, is still in business. Clerks envision eventually changing the office to an on-demand shop, instead of automatically printing paper copies of legislative documents. Those decisions would have to be made in the future, though.
“You might see less paper. But we’ll still have paper next year and the year after that,” Mauer assured lawmakers.