Shocker! NYS Legislature Actually Prints Things!

Toshiba may have dropped its plans for a national no-print day, but some New York State lawmakers remain on the warpath against paper.

A recent editorial at, the online home of the Staten Island Advance, summarizes and applauds these initiatives, endorsing their call to replace printed bills and other hard-copy legislative materials with electronic delivery. At the federal level, the proposed Stop the OverPrinting (STOP) Act of 2011 would require the Public Printer to make bills and resolutions available for the use of offices of members of congress only in an electronic format accessible through the Internet. (This bill was passed by the House of Representatives and is awaiting action by the Senate.)

“Despite the availability and widespread use of this modern technology,” declares the editorial, “the rules insist that all bills being processed in the state Senate and state Assembly must be printed on paper and delivered to their offices, where they often sit for days, unread. (Truth be told, many legislators don’t even read many of these bill thoroughly.)”

But what, we ask, makes it right to blame the printed matter for the lawmakers’ failure to read it? What evidence is there that turning a printed document into an e-mail message or a PDF raises its likelihood of being perused while it’s still timely? Let him who is without backdated clutter in his e-mailbox cast the first stone at print, in legislative chambers or elsewhere.

Something else in the editorial struck us as a bit naïve, especially coming from the online portal of a newspaper: the writer’s tone of apparent incredulity in reporting that “the Legislature actually has its own printing shop within the Capitol building to print and disseminate all this paperwork.”

“Actually”? The writer might want to take a look at compilations by In-plant Graphics of the nation’s largest in-plant printing operations. State-operated printing plants (although not New York’s) are among the leaders in staffing and sales volume.

“Whole forests are destroyed to comply with this quaint and, in this day and age, entirely unnecessary tradition,” the editorial goes on to say in language that Toshiba surely would have found quotable.

There’s probably no realm of government, business, or private life where consuming somewhat less print wouldn’t be a good idea. But attempts to enact outright bans on print are nowhere close to being realistic—even if the online version of a printed newspaper, apparently forgetting the siege its primary medium is under, believes otherwise.