Missouri state senators spent a lot of their second day of this spring's legislative session debating the merits of whether they should all continue to receive paper copies of legislation.
President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, offered up a resolution that originally would have modified the rules the Senate will operate under for the session to include that electronic distribution of proposed amendments to legislation would be an acceptable form of distribution.
Schatz said he's against wasting large amounts of paper, he's seen a lot of that happen, and it's his goal to make the Senate better stewards.
Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, wanted to maintain tradition, however. Rizzo said moving to electronic distribution would be "a pretty monumental step for this body."
Rizzo said he feared the move would threaten the Senate's slower, deliberative nature: "You actually have to have a conversation with someone in this body to find out what's going on."
He also feared late-night amendments being slipped in and quietly approved.
Schatz said, "The purpose behind this is not designed to create an opportunity for someone to quickly get something done in the cover of darkness, in the cover of electronic distribution."
Senators are already allowed to have some personal electronic devices at their desks — but not laptops, which the body felt are too distracting. Schatz said a system that would allow for electronic distribution is already in place.
Rizzo found bipartisan support among his colleagues, including with Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, who said, "I think the changing of this rule is premature."
Ultimately, Schatz submitted a substitute amendment that was approved, keeping the standard that only paper distribution of an amendment will be considered acceptable.
However, the Senate may soon be a bit more digitized in another way; its administrative committee will look in the coming weeks at whether to purchase tablet-type devices for all senators to have access to, though Schatz added: "We may ask individuals if they want it or not."
Per the compromise reached on Schatz's original proposals, those devices could not be laptops.
Schatz said the tablets would be paid for from the Senate's budget — he couldn't immediately estimate what the cost would be — and the Senate's IT staff would provide support for the devices, though not to senators' personal electronic devices.