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.

Pages

6:13am

Fri July 11, 2014
Environment

Healthcare professionals against fracking urge state to look at more research

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, of Ithaca College, says more studies have come out this year than in 2011 and 2012 combined.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

A group of healthcare professionals are seeking a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health department, saying they have compiled a compendium of new and ongoing research highlighting numerous health risks associated with the controversial natural gas drilling process called hydrofracking.

The health experts include a doctor, a veterinarian, and a Cornell University medical professor, who have requested a meeting with Cuomo’s acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, to go over the growing number of studies indicating numerous health risks associated with fracking.

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6:12am

Fri July 11, 2014
Politics

Astorino challenges Cuomo to eight debates

GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is calling for eight regional debates with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Ellen Abbott WRVO file photo

The Republican challenger for governor, Rob Astorino, has proposed multiple debates in locations around the state with incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor has so far not accepted any.

In a video, Astorino says the debates should be held in every region of the state between now and election day.

“I challenge Gov. Cuomo to a series of at least eight regional debates around New York state,” Astorino said.

Astorino says he agreed to five one-hour debates when he ran for his second term as Westchester County executive.

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7:13am

Thu July 10, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo primary challenger predicts she'll have 45,000 petition signatures by Thursday deadline

Zephyr Teachout and Timothy Wu announce their intent run a primary race against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (file photo)
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Zephyr Teachout, the Democratic primary challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, expects to file more than 40,000 signatures late Thursday to obtain a place on the ballot for the September primary voting.

Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor, says she’ll file her petitions in the final hours before the deadline, at around nine Thursday evening.

“We have over 40,000 signatures of registered Democrats, and we expect to have 45,000 signatures,” Teachout said.

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5:30am

Thu July 10, 2014
Politics and Government

Lieutenant governor candidate Hochul keeps a low profile

Kathy Hochul joins Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce their candidacy during the Democratic state convention in May.
Matt Ryan, New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate, lieutenant governor nominee Kathy Hochul, is keeping an unusually low profile during the first months of the election campaign. The lack of public campaigning by Hochul is starting to raise some questions.

Kathy Hochul, a former one-term congresswoman and former Erie County clerk, appeared with Cuomo at the state Democratic convention in May, one day after she was chosen to run as lieutenant governor.

Hochul promised the audience that she would “carry our message of hope and optimism across this great state.”

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5:30am

Wed July 9, 2014
Politics and Government

GOP candidate for governor will also run on anti-Common Core ballot line

Rob Astorino, the GOP candidate for governor, at a press conference opposing the Common Core learning standards Tuesday.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

The Republican candidate for governor in New York is petitioning to run on a new ballot line that capitalizes on public opposition to the new Common Core learning standards.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is gathering signatures to run on a third ballot line in November. In addition to the GOP and Conservative party slots, Astorino has begun a new ballot line called Stop Common Core. He admits it could give Democrats and others who are reluctant to vote for the Republican Party another option.

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1:32am

Tue July 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Medical marijuana becomes legal in New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the medical marijuana bill into law on Monday.
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York is now the 23rd state to allow medical marijuana, now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill into law. But, it will be some time before patients will have access to the drug.

New York will now permit patients with diseases like cancer and AIDS to have access to some forms of medical marijuana. Cuomo, who in the past opposed the idea, came around  after several new regulations and restriction guarantees were written into the legislation.

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5:34am

Mon June 30, 2014
Politics

GOP senators say Democrats will neglect upstate

Senate Republicans have a new strategy in what’s shaping up to be an election battle for control of the New York state Senate. They say now that a group of breakaway Democrats is abandoning them and rejoining the rest of the Democrats, the Senate will be dominated by New York City liberals who won’t care about upstate and Long Island.

The five-member Independent Democratic Conference  announced it would break its nearly two-year-old  alliance in ruling the Senate with the Republicans, and plans to join the Democrats in a coalition government after the November elections.

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6:23am

Fri June 27, 2014
Politics and Government

Senate IDC leader says group will maintain independence

IDC leader state Sen. Jeff Klein
Karen Dewitt WRVO file photo

Senate Independent Conference Leader Jeff Klein says even though his group now plans to realign with the Democrats in the Senate, he won’t rule out working with Republicans in the future.

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6:25am

Thu June 26, 2014
Politics and Government

Two state Senate factions will form Democratic coalition

New York State Senate floor
-JvL- Flickr

Two Democratic factions in the New York State Senate say they are joining to form what could be a strong Democratic majority in the Senate, leaving Republicans, who up until now have ruled the chamber in a coalition government, out of power.

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5:39am

Wed June 25, 2014
Education

Pre-K expansion estimated to be low in September

James F Clay Flickr

Fewer than 20 percent of school districts outside of New York City have expressed interest in expanding their pre-kindergarten programs. Critics say that falls far short of the goals of a program billed in the state budget as  universal pre-K.

When the state budget was approved on March 31, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders touted funding for pre-kindergarten that they said could lead to making it universal in New York state.

Senate Co-leader Jeff Klein was one of its biggest advocates.

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6:15am

Tue June 24, 2014
Politics and Government

Reform groups urge no vote on redistricting ballot amendment

Blair Horner of NYPIRG, Susan Lerner of Common Cause, and Jesse Laymon of Effective New York present mock awards for most gerrymandered districts in the NYS legislature
Karen DeWitt

Government reform groups are beginning their push early to convince voters to reject an amendment on redistricting that will be on the state’s November ballot. They say it’s a sham that does not offer the changes it promises.

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7:27am

Mon June 23, 2014
Politics and Government

Senate sponsor of medical marijuana bill gratified by large number of 'yes' votes

After a lengthy debate of several hours, the medical marijuana bill was approved in the Senate , and now goes to the desk of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has said he'll sign it.   

Sponsor Diane Savino says she’s “gratified” by the larger than expected number of yes votes, including some surprise votes from traditionally conservative Senators.

Savino says she hopes the wide support can serve to make the vote in New York, the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana, a tipping point for the federal government to change its policies against the drug.

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3:29pm

Fri June 20, 2014
Politics and Government

State Senate passes medical marijuana bill

dank depot via Flickr

Updated, 3:50 p.m.:

After a lengthy debate of several hours, the medical marijuana bill was approved in the state Senate, and now goes to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said he'll sign it. 

Sponsor Sen. Diane Savino says she’s "gratified" by the larger than expected number of yes votes, including some surprise votes from traditionally conservative senators.

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6:39am

Fri June 20, 2014
Health

New York to allow limited medical marijuana under agreement

Brett Levin Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature have agreed to a limited medical marijuana program for patients with cancer, AIDS, and childhood seizure disorders. It will not allow the drug to be smoked.

Cuomo, who had expressed reservations about allowing medical marijuana, says the bill will grant sick people access to the drug, while imposing limits that will prevent abuse of marijuana.

“It strikes the right balance,” Cuomo said.

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4:05pm

Thu June 19, 2014
Education

Common Core's teacher evaluations will be delayed

James F Clay Flickr

A tentative agreement has been reached by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature to put off the effects of the controversial Common Core tests on teachers for another two years.

Earlier this year the Democratic governor and the legislature imposed a moratorium on the Common Core tests effects on students, now that postponement moratorium extends to teachers who received poor ratings on their annual evaluations as a result of low scores by students on the controversial new tests.

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6:15am

Thu June 19, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo, legislative leaders agree on heroin bills, still discussing medical marijuana

Medical marijuana advocates demonstrate in the hallway outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo's offices.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have agreed to a package of bills combating heroin addiction, and say they are still discussing other issues, including medical marijuana, as the legislative session draws to a close.  

Cuomo calls the measures to curb the heroin abuse epidemic his top priority for the end of the 2014 session. He says the legislation will require health insurance companies to pay for more treatments.

“Insurance companies, frankly, can’t play games and decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t get treatment,” said Cuomo.

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5:26am

Wed June 18, 2014
Politics and Government

Medical marijuana bill sponsors hold private meeting with Cuomo

Medical marijuana legislation sponsors Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried talk with reporters.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Sponsors of a medical marijuana bill continued to negotiate with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the governor’s objections to many of the measure’s provisions, but say they are hopeful that a deal can be reached in the next couple of days.

State Senate Co-leader Jeff Klein is optimistic about the chances for a medical marijuana law in New York.

“My prediction is we’re going to end this session on a high,” Klein quipped after a lengthy closed-door meeting with Cuomo and the Senate and Assembly sponsors of the bill.

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7:17am

Tue June 17, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo could get a primary challenger

Zephyr Teachout and Timothy Wu announce their intent run a primary race against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo might have a primary challenger. Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and activist, announced she’s collecting signatures to be on the September Democratic primary ballot.

Teachout was first promoted by the left-leaning Working Families Party as an alternative candidate to Cuomo, but in the end the minor party dropped her in favor of the governor. Teachout says she volunteered for Cuomo’s 2010 campaign for governor, but has grown disenchanted, and believes that he’s become too concerned with raising money for his political campaign.

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5:34am

Tue June 17, 2014
Politics and Government

Legislative session could end with a whimper

-JvL- Flickr

The legislative session is scheduled to end on Thursday, and many issues remain unresolved. But a low-key end of session might not matter much to New York’s top political figures.

The chances of passage for several key issues promoted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including a Women’s Equality Act and public campaign finance appear dim, due to opposition from Senate Republicans.

The end-of-session gridlock grew worse after  Cuomo pledged to the left leaning Working Families Party that he would work to end the GOP’s partial control in the Senate and replace them with Democrats.

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5:45am

Tue June 10, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo downplays chances of end-of-session agreements

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (file photo)
Zack Seward WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is downplaying the chances of any major agreements before the legislative session ends later this month.

The governor, who has already vowed to replace the current Senate leadership coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, says he does not expect any deals on big ticket issues before the legislature leaves for the summer.

“We have some clean up items,” Cuomo said. “I don’t expect us to do any major initiatives.”

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5:30am

Tue June 10, 2014
Politics and Government

Women's equality supporters say fall elections are next battleground

Democrats and their allies in the legislature say there’s little chance anything major can be accomplished in the remaining days of the legislative session. Those pushing a Women’s Equality Act are already looking ahead to the fall campaigns as the next step.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is downplaying expectations for any major agreements in the final days of the legislative session.

“We have some clean up items,” Cuomo said. “I don’t expect us to do any major initiatives.”

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5:34am

Mon June 9, 2014
Politics and Government

Uncertainty over what legislature can accomplish with 8 days left

Wallyg via Flickr

The 2014 legislative session has just eight working days left to go, with the closing day scheduled for June 20. As lawmakers prepare to return for the final two weeks, there’s uncertainty whether anything will get done, now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has publicly vowed to try to oust the current Senate leadership. 

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7:13am

Thu June 5, 2014
Politics and Government

Green Party candidate says his chances are improving

Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for governor, appears in Albany.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

The Green Party candidate for governor, making a statewide tour, says there’s always been an alternative, left-leaning candidate for governor and he says his chances to win votes are now better than ever.

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5:30am

Thu June 5, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo says he's proud of lack of partisanship in Albany

Wallyg via Flickr

In the aftermath of a political endorsement that has shaken up the Capitol, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to change the subject with two economic development appearances.

Cuomo has promised the Working Families Party that he would fight to take the Senate away from a coalition of Republicans and Independent Democrats, and give it to the mainstream Democrats. In a video he sent to the party’s convention, he condemned the state’s GOP.

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5:31am

Wed June 4, 2014
Politics and Government

Is Cuomo deal with Working Families Party good for upstate?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO

The fallout from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new alliance with the progressive Working Families Party continues at the state Capitol, with those who say they represent upstate interests dismayed at the development.

Brian Sampson, with the business friendly group Unshackle Upstate, had planned to begin his organization’s final push on several items they wanted to see passed in the legislature. But he arrived at the Capitol just after Cuomo struck a deal with the progressive Working Families Party to help Democrats take over the state Senate.

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5:34am

Tue June 3, 2014
Politics and Government

Democrats hopeful, Republicans dismayed over Cuomo's pledge to shake up state Senate

-JvL- Flickr

Democrats in the New York State Senate say they are taking Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his word to help them regain the majority, despite some indications that he might be walking back some of the promises he made at the Working Family Party’s convention Saturday night.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says she’s holding Cuomo to the promise he made to the Working Families Party, to regain Democratic control of the state Senate.

“He has to,” Stewart-Cousins said.

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6:14am

Mon June 2, 2014
Politics

Cuomo happy to gain Working Families Party endorsement

Zack Seward WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won the endorsement of the state’s left-leaning Working Families Party in a messy convention vote that stretched to nearly midnight on Saturday night.

Some members of the party have been upset because they believe the governor has not been progressive enough and they're unhappy with Cuomo's support for business-friendly tax cuts and charter schools.

Cuomo did not attend the contentious meeting, but he did send a pre-produced video, and some of the party members booed when he later phoned in some comments.

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6:04am

Mon June 2, 2014
Politics and Government

State Senate will determine fate of medical marijuana

Brett Levin Flickr

The fate of a medical marijuana bill remains up in the air in New York state. The state Assembly has approved a version that would allow patients to obtain the drug for medical treatment, while a similar measure remains hung up in the state Senate.

Advocates cheered as the New York State Assembly approved a medical marijuana bill that would  permit patients to possess small amounts of marijuana to treat approved medical conditions. The legislation also sets up licensed dispensaries to grow and sell the drug to sick people.

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7:05am

Fri May 30, 2014
Politics and Government

Working Families Party endorsement comes down to the wire

Gov. Andrew Cuomo already accepted the Democratic and Independence Party nominatons earlier this month. (file photo)
Matt Ryan, New York Now

It’s coming down to the wire for a decision on whether the Working Families Party endorses Gov. Andrew Cuomo for reelection or not. Talks are ongoing as the Saturday convention approaches.

The left-leaning minor party was angered when Cuomo failed to win a public campaign financing system for statewide offices in the budget. They were also annoyed by cuts to corporate taxes and wealthy estate owners that the governor championed.

Cuomo has faced opposition from Republicans in the state Senate, who rule in a coalition with a group of break-away Democrats.

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8:02am

Thu May 29, 2014
Politics and Government

Astorino favors term limits but not public campaign finance

Rob Astorino attends an event in Syracuse. (file photo)
Ellen Abbott WRVO file photo

The GOP candidate for governor, Rob Astorino, tied the issue of lengthy terms in office to the controversy over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, using it as an example of corruption that can happen after lawmakers spend decades in office. The Moreland Commission, which was investigating potential wrongdoing in the legislature, was closed down as part of a budget agreement in late March.

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