Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Correspondent, Albany

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now.  She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers. 

Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.

She is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year for 2009 by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

Karen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo.

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Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Anti-hunger advocates came to the state Capitol in Albany Monday to lobby for measures to help New York’s neediest.

The advocates placed empty paper shopping bags at the office doors of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislative  leaders, reminding them to remember the poorest New Yorkers in the upcoming legislative session.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo


At a hearing held by the New York State Assembly on expanded voting, advocates argued that New York needs to join more than half of the other states who offer some kind of extended voting.

New York state has among the lowest voter turn out rate in the country, ranking 46th out of 50th in the 2014 statewide elections, which included the race for governor.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

Audio recordings released by the U.S. attorney’s office at the corruption trial of Sen. Dean Skelos aim to show that the former Senate leader and his son colluded to use Dean Skelos' official position to help his son get employment, in what turned out to be a succession of no-show jobs. But the phone recordings paint a revealing picture about how Albany really works behind the scenes.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Uber and other ride sharing services are gearing up to win permission from the state legislature to operate in areas outside New York City. State Senators held a round table discussion of how to craft legislation.

Senators appear open to allowing Uber, Lyft, and other ride sharing services to operate in New York state, as long as they can come up with the right rules. Sen. Phil Boyle, chair of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee co chaired the discussion.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

The New York State Legislature is seemingly back to business as usual, with majority parties holding planning meetings and the new session set to begin right after the holidays. But there has been little public discussion about a corruption crisis that has led to the two most powerful men in the Legislature both on trial in federal court this month.

It’s almost as though they’re taking place in two parallel worlds. In federal court in Manhattan, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Leader Dean Skelos are both on trial for corruption.

timlewisnm / Flickr

The state’s education commissioner said parents who are thinking of opting their children out of standardized tests again this school year should stick with the exams because they will be different than last year’s tests. But, the state’s teacher’s union and a parents group says the changes don’t go far enough.

Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia is hoping to contain a movement that led 20 percent of students to boycott the third-eighth grade standardized tests last spring.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the leader of the Senate Republicans differ on whether New York State should accept Syrian refugees in light of the French terror attacks.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / via Flickr

The state’s latest teacher evaluation system, which was supposed to be in place November 15,  has essentially been put on hold, as 90 percent of school districts have been granted waivers to delay its implementation. It represents a reversal for a policy championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo just last spring. 

The new rules for teacher evaluations were put in place last March, as part of the state budget.  

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he won’t allow a natural gas transfer station to be built off of the coast of Long Island, saying  there are too many concerns, including damage form future hurricanes, and potential terrorism.  

The Port Ambrose transfer station was to be built off of  the beaches of Long Island, and would have allowed tanker ships to load up with liquefied natural gas, then distribute the gas into pipelines on the main land.

Cuomo made the announcement to an enthusiastic crowd of Long Island officials and activists.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO


Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he is raising the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour.  That did not stop advocates from protesting at the Dunkin' Donuts at the state Capitol, saying the governor’s recently phased in wage increase for fast food workers is too slow.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The leaders of school districts, teachers unions, and parents are presenting a united front in calling for $2.2 billion more school aid next year.  They say a hard property tax cap with a zero percent increase is making it even more crucial that state lawmakers help them out.

Scott Reif

The state Senate’s newest member, Fred Akshar, known for his chain-saw wielding ad, says he intends to be independent, including from his predecessor Tom Libous, who resigned the seat after a felony conviction.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

As momentum for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour grows, opponents are trying to fight back. Small Business groups, farmers and others who employ low wage workers  are organizing, and a fiscally conservative group is out with a study showing potential job losses.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News


Republicans and Democrats in the New York state Senate both have victories to point to in last night’s election results.  

Following a landslide win, former Broome County Sheriff’s Deputy Fred Akshar became one of the two newest members of the State Senate.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

A new proposal by the state ethics commission that could restrict campaign donations is raising some questions.

At the Joint Commission on Public Ethics most recent meeting, commissioners discussed a proposal that could change New York’s open ended campaign finance rules. It would ban state officials from taking campaign donations from anyone who that elected official is investigating, or auditing. It would also them from asking for donations from anyone that they are currently suing.

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News File Photo

A special Senate race in the Southern Tier is favored to be won by the Republican in the race.

Deputy Sheriff and GOP candidate Fred Akshar is leading in the polls in the heavily Republican district.

“I will fight for your interest and your needs, and I will never allow Albany to change me,” Akshar said at a debate on WSKG.

His opponent, Democrat Barbara Fiala, did not get the support she expected from the Democratic  Party and Governor Cuomo .

“If elected, I’m going to Albany to fight for this area,” said Fiala, who called herself an “independent voice”.

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News File Photo

There’s only one political race Tuesday that directly effects New York state government, and that’s a special election for a state Senate seat in the Southern Tier. The Republican candidate is far ahead.

The Senate seat in Binghamton and surrounding areas is vacant, because its former occupant Tom Libous, who was the deputy Senate majority leader, has been convicted on felony charges of lying to the FBI over obtaining a politically connected job for his son. He is now awaiting sentencing.

xMizLitx / Flickr


Three-quarters of school districts in the state have applied for waivers from the new teacher evaluation rules set out by Gov.Andrew Cuomo and the legislature in March. The news comes amidst lots of changes, including the leadership of the state Board of Regents.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

State lawmakers said a few years ago they would no longer permit the controversial member item program to continue, but critics said the old system, which gave taxpayer money to legislators’ pet projects, is being revived in a new form.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, five years into his term in office, has reached a plateau with voters. About half still like and support him, the other half, have reservations, according to a new Siena College poll.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he has made a decision to stay out of politics for now, due to a climate of corruption and ongoing investigations by his office.

Schneiderman said he will not be endorsing or appearing with any candidates any more, as statewide office holders sometimes do. Both former leaders of the legislature face federal corruption trials next month and the attorney general’s office has, along with the state comptroller, probed the actions of dozens of elected officials, some resulting in charges and convictions.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s going to press for a statewide regulatory system that allows ride sharing services, including Uber and Lyft, to operate.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News


Political and private sector leaders from around the state are spending three days at the Capitol, making their best case to win a share of $1.5 billion in economic development monies for their region. Critics have called the competition the “hunger games," because under the rules three regions will win, but four others will lose out on the funds.

Perhaps the most ambitious plan presented by the regions competing for the money may be returning the Olympics to New York.  

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The ride sharing service Uber, which already operates in New York City, is making a big push to move into upstate cities like Syracuse, and Long Island. But, that would require state lawmakers to take action.

Uber officials, armed with a study that says 13,000 new jobs could be created if Uber is allowed in all of New York, came to the state Capitol to make their case. They have started an online petition and ad campaign, to help convince the state legislature to pass laws to allow the service to operate.

wadester16 / Flickr

New York will soon have a new top judge now that the current chief judge of the Court of Appeals is approaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.  Westchester District Attorney and Cuomo ally Janet DiFiore is on the list as a potential replacement.    

401(K) 2012 / Flickr

The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics released the top spending lobbyists in an effort to influence state government during the 2015 legislative session, finding that education and real estate groups were the biggest spenders.

The top spenders thus far in 2015 correlate with the top issues this year: fights over the future of public education and New York City’s rent regulations.

Jenna Flanagan / Innovation Trail/WMHT

The state’s  legislative leaders crossed paths literally this week, when both scheduled a stroll at the same time along a walkway over the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie. In addition to taking in the view, they had a lot to say about priority issues, including raising the minimum wage and funding public transit and road and bridge repairs.   

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

A panel commissioned to review practices at New York’s troubled ethics commission held it’s one and only public hearing Wednesday, as its chairman says lack of staff and excess of paperwork may make it difficult to meet the group’s November 1 deadline.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Hydrofracking has been banned in New York state for nearly a year now, but opponents of the natural gas extraction process have other concerns, including new pipelines.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News File Photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been speaking out about the need for national gun control laws in recent days, but Cuomo says he doesn’t know when a key provision of New York’s own gun safety laws will be enacted.

Cuomo most recently appeared on Hardball with Christ Matthews on MSNBC.

“I passed what is probably the toughest  gun law in the nation,” said Cuomo, who said illegal guns continue to come to New York thorough other states with looser laws.

“The states can’t do this, it has to be the federal government,” Cuomo told Matthews.