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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New York State Senate

There’s growing pressure on a group of breakaway Democrats in the state Senate to reunite with the mainstream Democrats and form a majority to rule the Senate.

At a rally in Harlem, many of the state’s top African-American politicians, chanting “Andrea, Andrea,” voiced their support for the current leader of Senate Democrats, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, to become the majority leader of the Senate.

Jason Lawrence

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a measure that would create new penalties for people who make bomb threats against community centers. The action stems from bomb threats made to Jewish community centers in New York and around the nation last winter.

Cuomo, in a statement, said anyone who falsely makes bomb threats to a community center can now be charged with a class A misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a year in jail.

The U.S. Senate plans to use procedural maneuvers to technically stay in session even when senators eventually go home for the Labor Day recess. Their intent is to prevent President Donald Trump from making any unwelcome recess appointments while they are away.

In Albany, taking steps to keep the legislative chambers open is nothing new.

On a day earlier this week, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy stood on the podium in the vast Assembly chamber. She banged the gavel, and began what sounded like an ordinary day in the state Legislature.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

There’s some good news and some bad news from the state comptroller’s office. The state’s nearly $200 billion pension fund is doing well, thanks in part to the booming stock market, but there are some worrisome signs for the future of New York’s finances.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said the pension fund is up this quarter by 2.9 percent, and has increased 11.5 percent from last year. DiNapoli said he likes to think that he and his staff have invested wisely, but he said a major factor is the booming stock market.

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New York Now / WMHT

The former EPA regional administrator under President Barack Obama said scientists who leaked the report about further evidence of climate change to The New York Times should be commended as “whistleblowers.”

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New York state stands to lose nearly $1 billion if President Donald Trump follows through with his threat to “let Obamacare fail” and cut key health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Trump has the power to end the subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, and he’s said he’ll withhold the payments as a way to pressure the Senate to find a way to repeal and replace the ACA.

The subsidies help pay for premiums for lower-income Americans.

Columbia City Blog / Flickr

The New York State Board of Elections quietly voted this week to turn over some data about New York’s voters to a Trump administration panel looking at whether there was mass voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election.

Sam Kmack / New York Now

The often-reticent New York Assembly Speaker, Carl Heastie, showed a different side of himself when the lifelong Star Trek fan visited a museum in New York’s North Country that replicates the fictional Starship Enterprise.

It’s a Trekkie’s dream — sitting in Capt. Kirk’s chair, standing on a transporter pod, holding an actual communicator prop from the television show. Heastie got to do all of that when he visited the Star Trek Set Tour museum in Ticonderoga as part of a tour of New York’s North Country.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed more details this week about how the newly named Mario Cuomo Bridge on the Thruway over the Hudson River will be financed.

We know that the former Tappan Zee Bridge will be replaced by the new Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, in honor of the current governor’s late father. But we don’t know the final price tag of the project, which spans the Hudson River between Rockland and Westchester counties.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Planned Parenthood leaders in New York are anxiously monitoring the actions in the Republican-led Congress to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and they say in all versions, their health care centers face big reductions.

Robin Chappelle Golston with Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, the lobby group for the state's Planned Parenthood clinics, is watching the attempts to repeal and replace the ACA, also known as Obamacare, with trepidation.

She said it’s hard to follow, and she thinks that’s deliberate.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The Senate is moving ahead on the repeal and possibly the replacement of the Affordable Care Act, and policy makers in New York are bracing for the worst.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking Tuesday on the Senate floor, painted a grim picture of the current state of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, saying it’s caused pain “for literally millions of families.”

“Premiums have skyrocketed,” McConnell said. “Insurance options have declined.”

He said in some states, there is only one carrier available — and in some cases, there are none.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced a series of what he calls “aggressive actions” to expand voter registration, saying he wants to “help combat low voter participation” amid “troubling” attempts by the federal government that might restrict voter access. But a nearly century-old voting rights organization said the governor did not go far enough.

Cuomo, in an executive order, directed all state agencies to mail or provide electronic voter registration forms to members of the public who have had contact with the agencies.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The future of the Affordable Care Act is uncertain in Washington, and there are several scenarios under consideration. The latest possible changes could affect New York’s relatively healthy health care system.

The good news is that the Affordable Care Act in New York is doing quite well, according to state officials. The health insurance exchanges are functioning, with 17 carriers offering plans in 2017. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, at a recent rally to preserve the ACA, said New York has built “one of the best health care exchanges in the country.”

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

At an event Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo defined the conflict over changing the health care laws in Washington as a class struggle, saying it’s all about the rich versus the rest.

Cuomo did not mention President Donald Trump by name, but he said the nation’s health care is in crisis and the struggle is really about those with lots of money, and those with lesser means.

“Make no mistake. The rich are always going to have the best health care system in the world,” Cuomo said. “What they’re trying to decide is what’s the health care for the rest of us.”

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s name has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, but first, he may be facing some obstacles to win a third term as governor in 2018.

Cuomo has taken actions in recent months that could be viewed as steps toward a presidential run. He’s hired key staff from President Barack Obama’s administration, as well as new chief of staff Maria Comella, who has worked on Republican presidential campaigns and was a top aide for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The second voter survey in two weeks shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s job approval rating plummeting to a near record low.

According to the Siena College poll, Cuomo’s job performance rating dropped to 43 percent. His overall favorability rating, at 52 percent, is down nine points from just two months ago. Last week, a poll by Quinnipiac University also found the governor’s approval rating at a near-record low.

Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg said the major reason is transit troubles downstate; riders overwhelmingly blame Cuomo for the mess.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The U.S. Senate no longer has the votes to pass a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Two senators announced Monday night that they would would not vote for the Senate's healthcare plan. Earlier on Monday, New York’s top elected Democrats rallied against Congressional Republicans' proposals Monday, saying they will take legal action, if necessary, to stop them.

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The corruption conviction of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was overturned Thursday on a technicality by a federal appeals court.

Silver’s attorneys say they are “grateful” for the decision, but the U.S. Attorney’s office for New York’s Southern District said it will retry the case. Until recently, the office was headed by Preet Bharara. He was fired by President Donald Trump earlier this year.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

While a new poll finds New Yorkers would like Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be a “national leader” challenging the policies of President Donald Trump’s administration, Cuomo seldom actually mentions the president by name.

Cuomo has railed against the Republican plans in Washington to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, singling out two New York GOP congressmen, Chris Collins and John Faso, who have proposed an amendment to charge the state $2.3 billion to pay for county Medicaid costs.

“Faso-Collins is a shell game,” Cuomo said.

Spiritual Enlightenment / Flickr

A bill to expand New York state’s medical marijuana program to cover sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder passed both houses of the Legislature, but will Gov. Andrew Cuomo sign it into law?

New York’s medical marijuana program is far more restrictive than most states. About a dozen conditions are eligible for treatment, including, according to the State Health Department, “severe and debilitating” forms of cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

The state’s lieutenant governor said New Yorkers should be deeply worried if the U.S. Senate approves a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Currently, the Senate does not have the votes for the GOP plan, but Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said that doesn’t mean opponents of the measure should be complacent.

“This is heading down a path that is very disturbing,” Hochul said.

She had some sarcastic advice for people if the repeal and replacement is approved: “Don’t get sick. And definitely don’t get old.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Later this summer, the new Tappan Zee Bridge will be named in honor of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, the current governor’s father. But the renaming of the bridge came with a bit of controversy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo initially proposed renaming the bridge in honor of his late father in the waning hours of the 2017 state legislative session. The state Senate approved the measure, which also has a provision that honors longtime Sen. Bill Larkin, a Korean War veteran.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Add Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s name to the list of state politicians wary of holding a constitutional convention. Voters get to decide this November whether New York should hold the event.

Cuomo initially supported holding a constitutional convention. He wanted to reform the delegate selection process and even included $1 million in his 2016 budget proposal to lay the groundwork for the event.

But the state Legislature failed to approve the money, and this year, the governor did not include the plan in his spending proposal.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The New York State Legislature finally ended its 2017 session, after the Assembly voted overnight on a privately negotiated omnibus bill, and the Senate finally finished on Thursday afternoon. The messy process drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle.

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The state Assembly voted in the early hours of Thursday morning on a bill that takes care of some unfinished business in the 2017 legislative session.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

There was dramatic testimony Tuesday in the hearing on whether former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino should be ousted from the Buffalo school board. Paladino took the stand, and apologized for racist comments he made last December regarding former President Barck Obama and Michelle Obama.

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When the state legislative session ended on June 21, lawmakers left behind a lot of unfinished business, including a failure to act on ethics reform proposals made in light of the economic development scandal in the Cuomo administration. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Education Department hearing on whether Carl Paladino should be removed from the Buffalo Board of Education for leaking private information from the board's executive sessions could conclude as early as Tuesday. On Monday, day three of the proceedings, the petitioners seeking Paladino's removal rested their case. And the Buffalo businessman and former Republican gubernatorial candidate's defense began.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Cuomo says the state legislature fell down on the job by leaving town without passing an extension of mayoral control for the New York City schools, and he has not ruled out calling them back for a special session.

Cuomo says by not voting to extend the Bill de Blasio’s authority over the public schools, they essentially voted for a return to the dysfunction of the old system of multiple community school boards. 

“It is a dereliction of duty,” Cuomo said.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

A hearing on whether 2010 gubernatorial candidate and Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino should be thrown off his city’s school board began Thursday at the New York State Education Department in Albany.

Controversial comments that Paladino made about former President Barack and Michelle Obama last December are not the subject of the hearing, but they nevertheless became an issue.

The nearing, convened by state Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia, began with the attorney for the Buffalo school board explaining why the board is asking state officials to remove Paladino.

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