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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Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited a state prison Thursday to announce he’s hiring  more  guards, and to push for a change in how 16- and 17-year-olds are treated in the state prison system.

Cuomo has been pressing the issue known as Raise the Age since his State of the State message in January. It would no longer treat 16- and 17-year-olds accused of violent crimes as adults, and instead house them in special detention centers separate from the adult state prison system. 

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

The former leader of the state Senate was formally indicted on federal corruption charges Thursday. Sen. Dean Skelos resigned as leader earlier in May after the accusations against him were announced by the U.S. attorney.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

In the final weeks of the legislative session, groups are lobbying for some of the major remaining issues still on the table, including the mayor of New York City, and groups who want a property tax break for homeowners struggling to hold on to their houses. And both accuse Gov. Andrew Cuomo of not taking an active enough role.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

New York state has a new education commissioner. The New York State board of Regents, after a lengthy closed door session, chose MaryEllen Elia, a former western New York school teacher who was most recently the superintendent of a large school district in Florida.

Elia, a Lewiston, NY native who taught in public schools in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst early in her career, says she is glad to be “coming home” after many years away.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A new poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo with the lowest approval ratings since he took office, in a year where corruption scandals have dominated news at the Capitol.  

The Siena College survey is the second in a month that shows the governor’s support eroding.  Only 41 percent think Cuomo is doing a good job in office, though he’s still viewed favorably overall by 53 percent of voters.  The Democrat governor fared the worst with New York City and Republican voters.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

There’s a push by business groups and Republicans in the New York State Senate, as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, to make the state’s 2 percent per year property tax cap permanent. Backers have issued a report to bolster their views, and say public opinion is on their side.    

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been steering clear of public events at the state Capitol recently, after a second major party legislative leader, the head of the Senate was forced to resign over corruption charges.  But the governor is still finding ways to press for his legislative agenda in the last weeks of the session.

Columbia City Blog / Flickr

A near record number of school budgets were approved around the state in Tuesday’s vote. Many are attributing the relative lack of controversy to the three year old property tax cap that limits tax levy increases, as well as an increase in state aid.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Assembly Democrats are approving a one-house bill to strengthen New York City’s rent regulations in favor of tenants. The rent law renewal and many other issues, including an education tax credit and the Dream Act, are in flux as the final weeks of deal making approaches.  

stgermh / Flickr

The legislature will be finishing up its work in the next couple of weeks with two new legislative leaders; one in his third month, the other in just his second week on the job.

Now that the state Senate has stabilized, after weeks of turmoil over corruption charges, legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are looking at what they can reasonably finish with just five weeks left in the session.

Wallyg / via Flickr

With just a few weeks left in the legislative session, education issues continue to dominate. Some lawmakers want to fix a recently passed law that requires a fast turn around for new teacher evaluations, while others would like a tax break for donors that would help private schools.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has seen much of his ambitious legislative agenda for 2015 stall, as first the Assembly Speaker, and then the Senate Leader, were charged with corruption and had to resign their leadership posts.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The new leader of the New York State Senate, John Flanagan, replaced Dean Skelos, who is facing corruption charges. On day two in office, Flanagan says he does not expect any major new reform legislation to happen before the end of the session.

Flanagan says he does not think that further ethics reform will be enacted in the remaining weeks of the legislative session, despite an ongoing corruption scandal that cost his predecessor his job.

David Shankbone / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is coping with the breast cancer diagnosis and impending double mastectomy surgery of his long time partner, and cooking show celebrity Sandra Lee. In a statement, Cuomo said he expects to take some personal time off to support her through her treatment.

nysenate.gov

Senate Leader Dean Skelos has resigned his post, over a corruption scandal, and Republicans have elected Sen. John Flanagan, currently chairman of the Education Committee to be his successor.

Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, a GOP stronghold in the Senate, became the new leader of the Senate with a unanimous floor vote from his Republican conference.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

State Senate Republicans have been huddling behind closed doors, trying to resolve a leadership crisis now that Majority Leader Dean Skelos has lost the support of his GOP members, after being charged with six federal counts of corruption.

Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican who’s been running to replace Skelos, says first, the leader would have to resign, and that is not yet guaranteed.  

“I have not talked to Dean; not anybody that I’ve talked to has a clear answer on that,” DeFrancisco said.

Kramchang / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at a large union rally in New York City’s Union Square to raise the minimum wage, called out fast food chains McDonalds and Burger King by name and accused them of corporate greed for under-paying workers.

Cuomo, in an animated speech, says fast food chains make huge profits while relying on taxpayers subsidies, like food stamps, to make up for the low pay they give their workers.

The governor says he’ll bypass the legislature and create a state board to examine increasing the state's minimum wage for fast food workers.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Disagreements that have roiled the state’s education community in the wake of new teacher evaluation laws approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature as part of the budget were highlighted at a day long summit called by education officials.

Principals, teachers and school boards have objected to the tight deadline in the law, as well as the greater reliance on standardized tests, a component that Cuomo has insisted upon.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his first public comments since the leader of the New York State Senate was charged in an extortion and bribery scheme, says if true, he finds the accusations “disturbing.”

Cuomo, speaking at an event in Syracuse, commented for the first time since Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was charged with six counts of public corruption.

Matt Ryan / WMHT

Major newspapers in New York state have posted editorials calling for Senate Leader Dean Skelos to resign after the senator and his son were accused of running a corruption scam. But so far, Skelos is hanging on and Republicans are trying hard to carry on business as usual.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who turned himself in to federal authorities on corruption charges Monday, will remain as the head of the Senate, his republican members announced after a more than three hour closed door meeting Monday night.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

The leader of the New York State Senate, Dean Skelos, surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning and was charged with six counts of corruption, including bribery and extortion, in connection with an alleged scheme that used his political position to enrich himself and his son.

Matt Ryan / New York Now

 

It may be three years until the next statewide election, but potential candidates in New York State are already staking out their positions. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman both say they are content with their jobs, and would like to keep them longer.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The annual state report on lobbying is out, and it finds that $226 million was spent on influencing government leaders, with the largest amount from education groups.

It’s not a surprise that education entities spent the most money on lobbying than any other group in 2014, just as controversy over the new Common Core standards and the related standardized tests reached a peak.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a blue print for ending the AIDs epidemic in New York by 2020.

Speaking before an enthusiastic audience outside  the LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village , Cuomo says it’s possible to make AIDS, which has killed an estimated 153,000 New Yorkers,  a disease of the past.

“Like tuberculosis, and measles and polio,” Cuomo said, to applause.

The recommendations include better testing and screening and wider distribution of drug treatments.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State legislature’s Black, Hispanic and Asians Caucus is reacting to events in Baltimore and is calling for swift action on a package of criminal justice reforms that have been stalled in the state Senate.

The caucus members say they’ve grown weary of  incidents where African Americans die after encounters with police.  Assemblyman Michaela Blake represents portions of the Bronx.

“Baltimore is happening in the Bronx, “ Blake said. “It can happen anywhere.”

Blake says the young people involved in the riots are not thugs or criminals.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News file photo

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says Assemblyman William Scarborough’s expected decision to plead guilty to illegally claiming over $40,000 in travel expenses is “the right thing to do.”   Schneiderman’s office, along with the New York State Comptroller, originally launched the investigation that led to the charges by the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Northern district.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The families of people killed in encounters with police met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday. They say the governor promised them he would issue an executive order to name a special prosecutor to investigate the deaths of their relatives, but only if the legislature does not approve Cuomo’s plan to create an independent monitor to look at such incidents.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died after police on Staten Island put him in a chokehold, says Cuomo gave them time to speak.

timlewisnm / Flickr

There’s growing support in the state legislature to address controversial aspects of the state’s Common Core learning standards and related testing.

More students across New York opted out of the state’s math tests -- over 150,000 students -- according to an anti-Common Core group that’s encouraged students to skip. It follows the boycott by tens of thousands of students of the third through eighth grade English tests earlier in April.  

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Democrats in the New York State Senate are attempting to close a loophole in the state’s campaign finance laws, while a new poll finds New Yorkers want lawmakers to take more steps to quell corruption.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

A new Siena College poll finds that half of New Yorkers support a growing movement for parents to opt their children out of state standardized tests. As many as 20 percent boycotted the third through eighth grade math and English exams given earlier in April.

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