Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The House Paperless Project

By Patricia Mau Shimizu, House Chief Clerk

While cost factors are always important in the services offered by the House to its members and the public, the primary objective for paperless efforts is the use of technology for better informed legislators and increased public participation for the best possible legislation or legislative actions.

It's difficult to quantify any savings to the House as a whole from the reduction in the use of paper. However, from the standpoint of looking at the Printshop operations in isolation, paper usage was down significantly - 1 million copies less than 2007 - during January's bill introduction period and as a result of the enrollment of 30 House members for the paperless Chamber project.

The members who are enrolled in the paperless project receive the following in electronic form: the Order of the Day, Senate bills crossing for First Reading purposes, and all bill copies for items up for Third and Final Reading.

We don't think electronic copies suffice for Constitutional decking purposes; e-docs were not envisioned during the last Constitutional Convention. (A constitutional amendment to clarify that e-docs can satisfy decking requirements will need to be introduced, enacted and sent to the electorate for ratification.)

The legislature made major technological enhancements in order to accommodate paperless activities:
  • In the House Chamber, data and electrical lines were wired for each member's desk.
  • Secure wireless network capabilities for members were installed in the Capitol building.
  • Laptop upgrade for each member.
  • Software enhancements for Neighbor Island members so they can retreive email from their home island.
  • Installation of outlets in the House Finance Conference Room.
  • Installation of outlets in other conference rooms will be completed during the interim.
  • Dissemination of legislative documents in e-docs (for the OD, action sheets, memos).
  • Use of links and other enhancements to make e-docs more user friendly.
  • Electronic posting of all Senate and House testimony on bills/resolutions.
Projects were also completed to accommodate paperless activities of the public:
  • Installation and expansion of the wireless network at the State Capitol.
  • Continuation of all documents in PDF and HTML formats.
  • Electronic posting of all House and Senate testimony submitted.
As a result, members who are proficient in Eclipse, and all the different reports and tracking systems, have at their fingertips all legislative documents which usually take up about 3 -4 bookshelves.

Members are able to bring their laptops out into the community to answer bill status and bill description questions. Members are also much more available and accountable to their constituents via e-mail.

The public is now able to submit testimony via email. This is a huge cost savings for the public who participate in the legislative process, eliminating the need to submit 25-30 copies. During large public hearings, such as the hearings on Hawaii Superferry or GMO taro, the House has streamlined the hearing process by utilizing email accounts to accept testimony and posting testimony online after the hearing.

The House remains committed to the paperless project. During the interim, we will be looking at the following for future implementation, provided they fall within our budget:
  • Streaming and archiving of selected committee hearings.
  • Additional paperless efforts at the committee hearing level.
  • Expanded use of e-docs for internal communication.

1 comment:

Doug said...

This is an excellent beginning. Congrats to all the geeks involved (and I use that term endearingly)!

Now, if I could direct your (and their) attention to this idea for the bill status information.