MONTPELIER - It might be the only unanimous decision at the statehouse: the switch to iPads.
The House Committee on Government Operations was the first to have them. They were paid for by the state during a pilot project in 2011.
“Of course there were some people who were really upset that we had iPads and they didn't,” Committee chair Donna Sweaney said.
That's because everyone else, like State Representative Peter Fagan, was still putting paper in binders.
“They would be bulging you couldn't easily close them because they would be bulging,” Fagan said.
But state officials want to close the chapter on paper and they're willing to pay to do it.
Last session, every last lawmaker was given an iPad along with some staff. In total the state has spent $118,550 on iPads.
That has lead to less time in the copy room. The legislative council says printing and copying costs fell from $307,500 in 2012 to $209,500 in 2013, nearly covering the cost of the iPads over the past three years.
“Talk about good economics in changing over to the iPad,” Sweaney said.
But it also takes a lot to teach a lawmaker how to use one.
iPad training has been a regular part of committee meetings this year and it takes an IT staff to do it.
Budgeting for that tech-savvy help has seen a significant increase since fiscal year 2011 when it was $880,587. In FY 2012 it jumped more than $60,000 to $941,753. It held steady in FY 2013 at $945,272 before dropping to FY $906,357 in 2014.
Lawmakers are convinced savings in printing will cover it but there have been other issues with the iPads. Some say their only problem with it is that it's tough to pay attention while others are talking.
For example, earlier this month Speaker Shap Smith had to ask house members to put their iPads and all electronic devices down during a vote.
The one thing every lawmaker says the iPad does help them focus on is the people they represent.
“For us to try and keep up with folks in the state of Vermont we need to be able to answer their questions as quickly as they can ask them,” Fagan said.
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