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Critics of closed door government call for more transparency

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Critics of closed door government call for more transparency
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Governor Cuomo has called for Albany to be more transparent. But as Zack Fink reports, some say lawmakers aren't going far enough to make that happen.

Upon taking office, Governor Cuomo said he intends to have the most transparent government in state history. Since then, the Cuomo administration has attempted to fulfill that pledge.

This week, for example, members of Cuomo's cabinet held a briefing for reporters to explain a new open budget website, which they say, goes to the very heart of transparency in government.

"It's a budget print transparency tool that's bringing people back into government, providing unprecedented public access and transparency," said Mary Beth Labate, NYS Division of Budget.

But critics say one only needs to look at the recent gun control legislation as an example of how Albany continues to be the same old place. While the bill was considered a major victory by supporters, it passed the Senate in the middle of the night under a message of necessity from the Governor which waives the required three-day waiting period before a vote. Negotiations over the bill were held mostly behind closed doors.

"Well, I've heard from people that they were critical of it. But the issue has been out there," said Sheldon Silver, (D), Assembly Speaker.

"Things are better in that the outcome is much more positive. Government is being much more productive, but what is not happening, and is actually happening less is the transparency of how our government operates," said Dick Dadey, Citizens Union.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has introduced a transparency bill, which among other things, would make messages of necessity take place only in cases of emergencies.

"I think what we are seeing here is a process that is close to secret government. They want to push things through. They don't want to have discussion. They don't want to have debate," said Tedisco, (R) - Schenectady.

In an ironic twist, Tedisco's legislation has virtually no chance of passing, since he is in the minority party.

The public also rarely gets to testify on legislation because committee hearings are not well advertised or easily accessible.

"Government is not a debating society. Government is an active service bureau. Government is supposed to perform," Cuomo said on Tuesday.

Most Albany watchers agree that things are better at the state capitol, but Albany still has a long way to go before it can held up as a model of open government.

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