April 22, 2015

Assembly Embarks on Historic Transition
to an Electronic Chamber
Heastie, Kolb and Bipartisan Working Group Announce
Implementation of Tablet Technology

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Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes views legislation on tablet technology, which the Assembly unveiled today, beginning the transition away from printed bills to a digital bill system. Peoples-Stokes is a member of the Assembly's bipartisan Electronic Chamber Project Working Group, which Speaker Heastie formed to guide the house toward a legislative process that reduces the use of paper and saves money.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and members of a bipartisan working group today announced the historic step of computerizing the Assembly chamber desks.

New Yorkers approved a constitutional amendment last November that permits the Legislature to utilize electronic bills. This initiative was long advanced by the Assembly to enhance the legislative process and to reduce the use of paper and printing costs.

"Today, the Assembly will begin using tablet technology to meet the new requirements of the constitutional amendment we adopted last year," said Heastie. "This is an important step in achieving our longstanding goal to enhance our legislative operations to save paper and money. For the first time in the chamber's history, electronic bills displayed on computer tablets will be the focus of the house's deliberations. This extraordinary transition away from printed bills begins with this year's annual Earth Day Observance when the Assembly advances an environmental agenda that includes measures that reduce waste and preserve our natural resources."

"Moving from paper bills to a digital format will be less costly to taxpayers and less harmful to our natural environment," said Kolb. "The transition to electronic bills in the Assembly Chamber represents a new era in our legislative process. This measure has had longstanding bipartisan support and I applaud the members of the work group for their efforts in making this a reality."

The computer tablets will provide access to a range of legislative information, including daily session calendars, calendar briefing books, instant bill lookup and other advanced bill search capabilities. The Assembly plans to thoroughly test the computer tablets throughout the remainder of the current session before phasing out the use of printed bills.

The Electronic Chamber Project Working Group is chaired by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and its members are comprised of Speaker Pro Tempore Jeffrion Aubry and Governmental Operations Committee Chair Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Assembly Minority members Janet Duprey and Jane Corwin also serve on the panel.

Heastie and Morelle thanked the working group's persistent efforts to make the Electronic Chamber Project a reality and for the comprehensive way the group addressed the project's many challenges.

"Never before in the history of the institution have Assembly members had access to such an extensive range of legislative information while they're seated at their chamber desks during session," said Morelle. "For this advancement, I applaud Speaker Heastie for bringing to fruition this project, which is the first of many steps to expand the use of technology in our legislative proceedings to make our deliberations more efficient and the members of our house more effective legislators."

"I am very pleased to be part of this mission to modernize the Assembly's legislative process," said Aubry. "The working group took great care to ensure the bill aging system implemented by the Assembly is in compliance with the state constitution at all times and is compatible with the electronic bill processing operations of the Senate and the NYS Bill Drafting Commission."

"While so much of our legislative operations are already aided by electronic technology, it made sense for our house to push for the constitutional amendment to permit the Legislature to age our bills electronically," said Peoples-Stokes. "I commend Speaker Heastie for involving the members of our house in this monumental transition, and I look forward to utilizing all the legislative applications and research tools these new computer tablets will afford to the members."

"With this new technology, information about bills and other legislative materials will be more accessible to members in the chamber, and it also will encourage more orderly and informed debates," said Duprey.

"I am confident that through the efforts of our group and the advice we provided, this new technology will create a more transparent legislative process and allow members to ascertain aging legislation in real time," said Corwin.

The Assembly's new electronic bill aging system is equipped with extensive power backup capabilities and computer redundancies to meet the highest standards of dependability.

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