Joseph L. Bruno was first elected to the state Senate in 1976. A Republican, Sen. Bruno was named chairman of the Legislative Commission on Public-Private Cooperation in 1989, and was a leader in the fight to control government costs, increase accountability, and reduce costly state mandates. Sen. Bruno was elected temporary president of the Senate in January 1995.
As a legislative priority, Sen. Bruno has highlighted the state's economy and has concentrated on programs to stimulate the creation of jobs, aid the growth of business and commerce and reduce personal taxes.
A former chairman of the board of Mitel Systems Integrators, and co-founder, chairman of the board and CEO of the Coradian Corp., Sen Bruno is well versed in technology.
Sen. Bruno was interviewed by Mike Nevins of State Technologies Inc., a non-profit firm based in Albany, N.Y.
GT: Congratulations on last month's announcement of the Online Public Exchange Network (OPEN Senate). It would seem the Senate is taking a leadership position in providing citizens online access to the legislative process. Is this something that has been in the works for some time?
Bruno: As soon as I became leader, I put together a group of fellow senators and we started talking about changes that should be made to open up the legislative process. This was one of them. It has been reviewed in the past, but I'm not really sure how serious people were about getting that much public access so quickly. I just think that is the direction we should be moving in government. It ought to be open, we ought to be responsive, people ought to have access. So we thought this was an important step and a big step and we wanted to do it quickly.
GT: A number of senators have Internet e-mail addresses now. How are they responding to this?
Bruno: I think most of them are sort of getting a kick out of being on the leading edge in terms of technology, and being able to communicate with each other and with the rest of the world. So I think they have had a very positive reaction. But as you know, people have to get used to knowing that it is there, how to use it and using it regularly. So there is that sort of burdening period - and I think we are going through that now.
GT: Since the announcement was only a month ago, is there any sense of the response from either citizens or interest groups?
Bruno: Any responses I have had have been positive. Some people made suggestions in terms of what might make us more operative. But by in large, everyone has been very positive about opening up the process and making it more accessible to the public and to those with a vested interest.
GT: Your private sector experience includes work in the technology industry. Have you found this to be helpful in your legislative work?
Bruno: Yes, it helps me a great deal and in a number of ways. For one, just having a background in business has been very important. We were in the communications business selling commercial telephone systems. We installed the first private branch exchange against AT&T; in New York. So we were kind of pioneers and competing against the Bell system after the Greene decision that broke up the Bell monopoly. We always sold leading edge products. That is good and bad because we were the first distributor for Rolm, for instance, in the United States. Rolm was one of the first computerized branch exchanges - they replaced the old crossfire systems with computers. We were the first distributor and installed