Paper Cuts At Statehouse Deep Enough?

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The one thing more abundant than legislators and lobbyists at the Statehouse is: paper.

Reporter Travis Perry with Kansas Watchdog keeps tab on all of them and says he was shocked to see just how much is being printed for their benefit.

"There are stacks upon stacks of daily calendar booklets that are printed out every single weekday," he told 13 News via Skype. "Maybe five stacks, at least three to four feet high," he said of a recent trip to the Statehouse's documents office.

"I spoke with Representative J.R. Clayes, and he says the amount of paper and printouts that he throws in his waste bin at the end of the is practically criminal," Perry said.

"Our bill after last session was 478,000," Jeff Russell, Legislative Administrative Services Director for the Kansas Legislature said.

He cited incoming lawmakers and those changing committees needing new stationary as one portion of the cost.

But the bulk comes from printing bills, he said.

"Our demands are 500 copies overnight," Russell said.

He said a bid to outsource the job to a private company a few years ago did not yield a lower cost proposal, partly because the legislature is in session only four months out of the year.

"[The bills need to be ] edited, ready to go because downstairs at our documents office members of the public can get a copy to see what's going to be read that day," he said.

Lobbyists and state agencies do pay a fee for them, Russell said.

Still critics say printing paper is unnecessary since most of the information is online.

"This is 2013. We have so much technology at out fingertips," Perry argued.

Russell says lawmakers are trending away from paper but hard copies won't ever go away as long as the public demands it.

"Everything we do has to be available for the public to view," he said, while not everyone has Internet access. "Again if the public doesn't have the technology, then it has to be there on paper," he said.

It's a balancing act, Russell says the line between government efficiency and transparency is paper thin.

Russel said six years ago, that printing bill was $624,000, almost $150,000 more than the 2012 last bill.