Virginia Lawmakers Experiment with iPads

Earlier today David Harrison of Stateline, a project of the Pew Center on the States, wrote about how Virginia lawmakers are experimenting with Apple’s new tablet iPad in the state legislature.

Currently state legislatures rely on printed books of bills in order to keep track of legislation. This approach is anachronistic, and while it makes it difficult for policymakers to keep track of lengthy bills it also results in high paper use and printing costs.

The Virginia legislatures purchased iPads and related accessories through an experimental program to be used by lawmakers and staffers to improve legislature efficiency. The House purchased 25 iPads for under $20,000, and the Senate purchased 20 iPads for roughly $14,000. Harrison’s story also includes an anecdote about the 64-year-old technology-averse House Delegate Lionell Spruill’s adoption and embrace of his new iPad.

According to Pam Greenburg, of the National Conference of State Legislatures, this program is the first of its kind. However, Virginia’s innovative policy work is not limited to iPads. Last month, the state’s Commission on Government Reform & Restructuring (CGRR) released its final report outlining a wide range of strategies to reduce costs and improve public service delivery. CGRR’s final report detailed how to cut state spending by 2% and yield savings and/or cost avoidance exceeding $100 million. Read my full coverage of that report here.

Several other states are also seeking to cut costs and improve public service delivery. Last year, Louisiana’s Commission on Streamlining Government released a set of over 230 reform recommendations estimated to save the state at least $1 billion per year. In New Jersey, the Privatization Task Force established by Gov. Chris Christie released a report last summer; and in Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer established a Commission on Privatization and Efficiency (COPE) that released its initial report this past September.

An increasing number of states are actively pursuing government efficiency reforms. It will be interesting to watch the confluence of policy proposals to see which gain the most traction, and which fail to catch on.

Harris Kenny is a research assistant at Reason Foundation