This is a good cost-saving idea from the incoming majority. I’m a bit surprised at just how much it would save, actually.
“One of things that the team is looking at is the possibility that we can reduce some of the printing that’s done around here, some of the hard copy printing,” a GOP transition staffer said. The suggestion seems to resemble a bill proposed by Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) that was voted down on the House floor Wednesday. Brought to the floor under the GOP’s YouCut initiative, the bill would have saved about $35 million over 10 years by ending the practice of delivering five printed copies of legislation to every sponsor, original co-sponsor and committee of jurisdiction.
The overall bill the Congress paid another part of the government to do all its printing and binding was an eye-popping $94 million in 2010. That’s a lot of printed material floating around Capitol Hill.
Let me float a crazy idea I initially had last night while researching a Christmas gift. Why not stop printing bills beyond the copies we’d need for the official archives (at least those the law absolutely requires us to print)? Let’s set each member of Congress up with a Kindle and publish the bills in epub and/or Mobi formats. The ability to hyperlink sections of a bill to each other, or to pertinent sections of other bills, would help immensely. Members could make annotations and comments to the bill like other Amazon users do with their e-books and publish excerpts, with comment, to their Twitter feeds or Facebook pages. Congress could also adapt Amazon’s Popular Highlights feature so we (and other members) can see what sections of what bills are getting the most attention. Bill revisions would be easily pushed to the members so that they always have the most current version of each bill (along with archived earlier versions of the bills, complete with notes and annotations).
Going to Kindle would open up entirely new ways for members to share bills, and their thoughts on them, with the rest of us at a relatively small cost beyond the initial setup. Admittedly, there would be some wrinkles to work out and I’m not sure that Amazon would be willing to work that closely with Congress, but surely it’s not a terrible idea. Perhaps some enterprising new member of Congress could at least begin to look into it.