Location:
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY - INTERNET; LEGISLATIVE BODIES; LEGISLATIVE BODIES - CONNECTICUT;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations; Other States laws/regulations; Background;

OLR Research Report


December 13, 2010

 

2010-R-0511

PAPERLESS EFFORTS IN STATE LEGISLATURES AND AUTHENTICATING ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTS

By: Kristin Sullivan, Principal Analyst

Terrance Adams, Legislative Analyst II

You asked for information on state efforts to transition from print to electronic documents. You are particularly interested in legislative initiatives and authentication methods for their electronic documents. (See OLR Report 2010-R-0039 for information on printing costs for Connecticut legislative documents.)

SUMMARY

The Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation establishing a task force to study converting legislative documents from paper to electronic form (see PA 10-179 42, as amended by PA 10-1 43). We know of 17 other states that have implemented a paperless initiative or policy for certain legislative documents. (Several more have replaced other printed legal documents with online only versions, including court opinions, the administrative code, or the state register). Legislative initiatives commonly substitute electronic files for print copies of bills, amendments, and calendars. Some have dispensed with print copies of fiscal analyses and public hearing and committee meeting transcripts and agendas. Hawaii's Senate has undertaken one of the most extensive paperless initiatives, reducing its paper usage by about 80% in a three-year period.

None of the states with paperless legislative initiatives appears to have an established authentication policy for their electronic documents. Toward that end, the National Conference of Commissioners on the Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) is in the process of drafting a model law on the authentication and preservation of state electronic legal materials to provide states with guidance on these issues (see BACKGROUND). “Authentication” methods (i.e., processes by which electronic documents are determined to be equivalent to print documents) include checksums, encryption, digital signatures, public key infrastructure (PKI), and digital watermarking, among others. (For more information on authentication methods, see Appendix B in the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) 2007 survey, State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources)

PAPERLESS INITIATIVES IN STATE LEGISLATURES

Table 1 provides information on the 17 states we found that have paperless initiatives for legislative documents. Of these, at least three conducted a paperless pilot program, 11 eliminated or reduced the number of printed documents in at least one chamber, and three publish their statutes online only. (For the purpose of this report, we include state statutes as legislative documents since legislative offices are generally responsible for producing and publishing them.)

Table 1: Legislative Paperless Initiatives

State

Paperless Policy

California

The online statutes have no print official version and are available through the Office of Legislative Counsel website. The resource does not specifically represent that it is official and gives an extensive disclaimer and limitation of liability.

Florida

Conducted a pilot program for paperless Senate committee meetings. Senate and its committee meetings are now paperless. Paper records available upon request.

Hawaii

Extensive paperless effort in Senate (see description below).

Kansas

Conducted a pilot program for paperless committee meetings. In the process of building an XML database for drafting and storing legislative documents. Also passed legislation establishing a digital archive for all legislative, executive, and judicial records; system will allow state archivist to authenticate these records and (see HB 2195, 2010). According to the Office Legislative Computer Services, the archive project is considering several authentication technologies for the project including checksums, PKI, steganography, and digital signatures.

Maine

House conducted a pilot project, issuing RFPs for laptops and software for a paperless chamber. Launched software, allowing members instant access to bills, amendments, committee reports, and fiscal notes. The system also includes a note-taking function, instant messaging system, and digital version of the House calendar that is updated in real time. According to the Office of the Revisor of Statutes, members may choose whether to receive paper copies.

Maryland

The Maryland General Assembly, Department of Legislative Services, publishes the statutes in the form of statutory database. It maintains no print version of statutes.

New Jersey

Senate Resolution 48 (2010) authorizes the Senate president to eliminate paper documents for Senate sessions, committee meetings, or public hearings.

Ohio

Bills appear online only. A 2007 article in Governing magazine estimates savings of $1.5 million in paper costs.

Oklahoma

Implemented paperless system that allows legislators to receive and file bills electronically.

Rhode Island

Senate and House switched to a computerized, paperless bill system that replaced most paper copies of bills on the floor. One copy of each bill is passed between chambers as the official bill and committees continue to work off paper copies for members and onlookers during public hearings.

South Dakota

Reduced (1) number of bills printed from 850 in 2000 to 135 presently and (2) number of House and Senate journals to 140 from a high of 600. Noted that financial savings are not as dramatic as paper savings because pre-print costs constitute the bulk of overhead costs in legislative printing.

Tennessee

The law authorizes the secretary of the state to publish text of session laws online only, but they are still printed.

Utah

Online official statutes substitute for discontinued print official resource.

Virginia

Reduced printing of legislative documents by two-thirds, provides laptops to all legislators and printing on demand in several locations in the capitol.

Washington

Senators have electronic bill books providing access to bills, amendments, fiscal notes, and testimony, which has decreased printing by about 50%. Senate committees cut back on printed bills for hearings. Screens in committee hearing rooms allow public to see the bill under discussion. Still have capacity to print documents as needed.

West Virginia

House switched to a paperless bill system; Senate and committees still use paper copies.

Wisconsin

House is paperless all its bills and amendments appear online. All legislators issued laptops.

Sources: AALL, National Conference of State Legislatures, and state legislative websites

Hawaii Senate

The Hawaii Senate began a paperless initiative during its 2008 session. It ceased the automatic distribution of legislative documents, such as bills, resolutions, committee reports, hearing notices, and Orders of the Day. Instead, it now only prints these documents for senators upon request. It reduced hard copy documents in public hearings, accepting testimony electronically and placing it online before the start of the hearing. The Senate also reduced, from as many as 45 to one, the number of copies required from people submitting printed testimony.

The Senate additionally eliminated the mail boxes that members of the public could subscribe to in order to receive hard copies of every legislative document. It still allows people to request printed copies of the documents, but limits the number of copies each person may receive.

To compensate for the paper reduction, the Senate enhanced the online accessibility of information. It accomplished this by expanding wireless capability in the Capitol building, adding an RSS feed to its website, sending hearing notices electronically through e-mail, and posting its Order of the Day and hearing notices online with hyperlinks to the agenda items. It also placed the legislative documents on text-searchable CDs distributed daily free of charge. Finally, the legislature houses a public access room with computer terminals and other resources.

Table 2 shows selected indicators that display the progress of the paperless initiative. In February 2010, the Senate reported that the initiative had produced a total savings of $1.2 million during the previous two years.

Table 2: Hawaii Senate Paperless Initiative Statistics

Year

Pages Printed (in millions)

E-Mail Subscribers

Visits to Website per Month

RSS Feed Hits per Month (in millions)

2007

8.33

No data

No data

No data

2008

2.66

1,550

176,661

1.93

2009

1.76

1,770

197,085

1.94

2010

1.54

2,543

200,862

3.17

Source: Hawaii Senate (data covers January to April each year, when the Senate is in session)

AUTHENTICATION

According to AALL's 2007 50-state survey, an authentic text:

“…is one whose content has been verified by a government entity to be complete and unaltered when compared to the version approved or published by the content originator. Typically, an authentic text will bear a certificate or mark that conveys information as to its certification, the process associated with ensuring that the text is complete and unaltered when compared with that of the content originator. An authentic text is able to be authenticated, which means that the particular text in question can be validated, ensuring that it is what it claims to be.”

Most states have not addressed the issue of authenticating legislative documents. But according to AALL, some states have addressed the issue of authenticating other legal documents. Kansas is in the process of building a database for authenticating archived documents from all three branches of government and Virginia has a joint legislative subcommittee that is studying the official authentication of electronic records. Arkansas uses watermarks and digital signatures to authenticate decisions by its Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, while Ohio applies digital signatures to its state Supreme Court decisions. Additionally, the U.S. Government Printing Office applies digital signatures and seals of authenticity to certain federal documents that it posts online.

BACKGROUND

NCCUSL Model Law

NCCUSL is currently drafting a model law on the authentication and preservation of state electronic legal materials, which it intends to finalize by July 2011. The most recent draft, presented at the commission's November 19-20, 2010 meeting, establishes criteria for designating electronic legal resources as official. Such legal resources could include statutes, administrative rules, agency and court decisions, and other resources designated by the state.

The draft law designates an official publisher for each covered resource. If the publisher does not produce a print version of the legal resource, it must designate the electronic version as official, following steps prescribed by the draft law (if a print version exists, designating the electronic version as official is optional). For an electronic record to be official, the official publisher must first authenticate it by (1) certifying that the electronic record is a true and correct copy of the legal material, (2) providing sufficient information to determine that the certification is valid, and (3) providing a method for users to determine that the electronic record is unaltered from the one published by the official publisher. The official publisher must also preserve and protect the electronic records and provide for permanent public access to them.

The draft law does not prescribe a specific method or technology for authenticating a record. Instead, it allows states to make these decisions for themselves.

HYPERLINKS

2010-R-0039

http://cgalites/2010/rpt/2010-R-0039.htm

PA 10-179

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2010/ACT/PA/2010PA-00179-R00SB-00494-PA.htm

PA 10-1

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2010/ACT/PA/2010PA-00001-R00SB-00501SS1-PA.htm

Appendix B

http://www.aallnet.org/aallwash/authen_rprt/Appendices2.pdf

HB 2195

http://www.kslegislature.org/bills/2010/2195.pdf

KS:df