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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6:24am

Fri May 2, 2014
Politics and Government

New York's race for governor heats up

Zack Seward WXXI

The campaign for governor in New York is heating up. The state Democratic Party is running attack ads against the Republican candidate for governor, while the GOP candidate is fighting back in an internet video.

Just two weeks before the party conventions, Democrats are airing negative attack ads targeting incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Rob Astorino.

“Rob Astorino, so far right he’s wrong for New York,” a narrator intones, over a background of ominous music.

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6:22am

Thu May 1, 2014
Politics and Government

Prospective casino operators attend mandatory question session

The New York State Gaming Commission's Ed Berns listens to questions from prospective casino operators.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Prospective casino operators got a chance to ask the Cuomo administration questions about the process for choosing licensees for four upstate casinos. But they won’t get answers for several days.

The structure of the event was a bit awkward. Gambling conglomerates and other developers, who have all paid $1 million each for the privilege of being considered for a casino site, attended a mandatory session held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York State Gaming Commission.

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5:51am

Thu May 1, 2014
Politics and Government

US Attorney supbeonas documents from state ethics panel

Published reports in the New York Post and New York Daily News say U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has subpoenaed records from a state ethics panel created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature.

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6:01am

Wed April 30, 2014
Politics and Government

Drug legalization and abuse topics in Albany

Brett Levin Flickr

It was a day of drug policy discussion in Albany, as lawmakers held a forum on legalizing marijuana, proposed bills to combat heroin addiction and overdoses and made progress toward a medical marijuana program.

Sponsors of a bill to legalize marijuana held a forum that in part focused on the nuts and bolts of how to implement a system that would permit sales and impose taxes on the drug.

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6:57am

Tue April 29, 2014
Politics and Government

Unfinished business in legislative session

-JvL- Flickr

There’s about two months left in the legislative session and a number of issues are still left on the agenda. But it’s uncertain how many of them will actually become law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s failed to achieve a number of progressive items over the last two years, including public campaign finance reform and a Women’s Equality Act, told the Democratic Rural Conference that he’ll try to get them passed in the state legislature in the next eight weeks, before the session ends in June.

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5:49am

Mon April 28, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo defends progressive record

Ryan Delaney WRVO File

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is responding to a recent poll that finds support for a third party candidate from the left running against him for governor.  Cuomo says he has a progressive track record, and blames Republicans in the state Senate for stalling his agenda.

The Siena poll found that dissatisfaction among left-leaning Democrats in New York could cost Cuomo 15 points on election day, if the progressive  Working Families Party  put up its own candidate in the governor’s race.

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6:57am

Fri April 25, 2014
Politics and Government

Astorino undeterred by low poll numbers

Rob Astorino talks with Karen DeWitt about his plan for this fall's gubernatorial election.
Matt Ryan, New York Now

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is 30 points behind incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the polls. But Astorino says he is undeterred, and has identified a path to victory in the fall elections.

Astorino, in an interview with New York State Public Radio & Television, says he’s already been through a race where he was behind by double digits, with a voter base that was two-thirds Democratic. And he says he won that contest, for Westchester County executive, and was recently reelected to a second term.

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6:44am

Thu April 24, 2014
Politics and Government

State conference focuses on future storm prep

An Oneida man's backyard shows damage to his property from flooding last June.
Gino Geruntino WRVO/File photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gathered local leaders from around the state to talk about reaction to past storms, and to plan for future ones.

Cuomo invited government leaders from Long Island, the North Country, central New York and other locales that experienced damage from Hurricanes Irene, Lee and Sandy. They gathered to praise their past efforts to react to the storms, and to report on the steps they are taking to prepare for future disastrous weather events.

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7:01am

Wed April 23, 2014
Politics and Government

Moreland fallout continues for Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (file photo)
Ryan Delaney WRVO

A new poll finds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still feeling the fallout from the demise of his Moreland Commission, a panel that was investigating corruption in the legislature. Cuomo disbanded the commission as part of the state budget deal.

The Siena poll finds Cuomo’s decision to end the Moreland Commission, in the midst of a corruption probe, doesn’t sit well with voters. Since the budget was settled, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has said he’ll continue with the investigations, and has asked for and received all of the paperwork on the probes.

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6:50am

Tue April 22, 2014
Politics and Government

New poll shows Cuomo vulnerable on the left

Zack Seward WXXI

A new poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo with a double digit lead against his Republican opponent for the fall elections. But the survey finds that ratio changes if a progressive third party candidate emerges.

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10:49pm

Mon April 21, 2014
Education

Study finds New Yorkers don't want school mergers

Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature approved a plan in the state budget to encourage local governments and schools to merge and share services over the next few years, in an attempt to lower property taxes. But according to a study by school administrators, attempts at school district mergers in recent years have failed, partly because the public doesn’t want them.

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6:45am

Mon April 21, 2014
Environment

Documents show fracking health study is ongoing, group claims

Bosc d'Anjou Flickr

Documents obtained by a group opposed to hydrofracking show the Cuomo administration is conducting a thorough health study on the controversial natural gas drilling process. The Finger Lakes based organization is now wondering why the review has been conducted almost entirely in secret.

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7:43pm

Tue April 15, 2014
Environment

Groups call growing oil shipments in NY Cuomo's "Keystone" moment

Environmentalists protestor oil transportation through New York state in Albany Tuesday.
Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

National environmental groups are trying to focus the spotlight on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, over the issue of the growing international oil distribution center, located just blocks from the state Capitol, at the Port of Albany.   

A small band of demonstrators chanted and held signs Tuesday to protest a confluence of events that has turned upstate New York into a major center for oil distribution.

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5:31am

Tue April 15, 2014
Politics and Government

April 15 marks assault weapons registration deadline

Mike Saechang Flickr

April 15, besides being tax day, is the first day that owners of semi-automatic weapons will be required to register their guns with the state police. 

The head of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, a gun owners and pro-Second Amendment rights group, says his members don’t like the new requirement that they register any assault weapons they own under the state’s gun control laws.  

Tom King says while he’s not advising gun owners about whether or not they should register, he says those that want to comply are finding the new rules hard to navigate.

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7:13am

Thu April 10, 2014
Politics

New York State Gaming Commission hears testimony on problem gambling

Viri G Flickr

The New York State Gaming Commission is holding hearings on the issue of gambling addiction. It’s part of a process that will allow the building of up to seven new casino gambling resorts in the state over the next several years.

Among those testifying was James Maney, the executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling.

Maney, who’s organization is neither for or against gambling, says there’s no doubt the new casinos will increase the number of problem gamblers in New York.   

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7:17am

Wed April 9, 2014
Politics and Government

Medical marijuana next big issue for state legislature after lengthy spring break

Now that the state budget is done, the focus at the Capitol is shifting to other priorities, including whether to allow medical marijuana. Advocates came to the Capitol to lobby lawmakers, but the bill is getting bogged down over political skirmishes.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver caused a bit of a stir when he seemed to say that a bill to legalize medical marijuana might be dead for the year, saying he does not think it has a future in the 2014 session.

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6:52am

Wed April 9, 2014
Business

State's beer, wine and distillery summit now includes cideries

Local beers are displayed during the second wine and beer summit held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted his second beer, wine, spirits, and now cider summit, to showcase one of the state’s few growth industries.

The owners of breweries, distilleries, wineries, and for the first time, cideries, gathered at the Capitol to share ideas about growing the industry. They also heard a pep talk by Cuomo, who says a few thousand new jobs have been created.

“We also can be a major facilitator,” Cuomo said. “A lot of your business is about promotion."

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7:11am

Tue April 8, 2014
Education

New teachers union president wants to increase union's political potency

Thomas Favre-Bulle via Flickr

There’s a big change in the New York State United Teachers union, as members elected new leadership after months of unrest. The state’s largest teachers union has a new president, Karen Magee, the first woman to run the organization.

The shakeup comes over concerns with the state’s flawed implementation of the new Common Core learning standards. Teachers are complaining that they were not adequately prepared to teach to the new standards, and that the test results should not be used to evaluate their performance.

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6:45am

Tue April 8, 2014
Politics and Government

Comptroller opts out of public campaign finance pilot, says program is flawed

The state’s comptroller says he won’t be participating in a new pilot public campaign finance program agreed to in the state budget, and government reform groups say they don’t blame him.

Saying he won’t be a “convenient sacrificial lamb,” state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says he won’t opt in to a test system for public campaign finance that applies only to his office, and would use money from the comptroller’s unclaimed funds to pay for it.  

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6:31am

Mon April 7, 2014
Politics and Government

Report shows record lobbying in New York state

Wallyg via Flickr

A new record has been reached in spending on lobbying in New York, according to a report released by the state’s ethics commission. It finds more than $200 million was spent, mostly by a few top interests, to try to influence government and policy in Albany.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics report finds $210 million was spent by lobbyists to mostly influence state and local governments. That’s nearly $1 million for each of the 213 senators and Assembly members.

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7:39am

Fri April 4, 2014
Regional Coverage

Advocates say Cuomo missed chance to counteract Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court decision McCutcheon v. FEC, striking down some campaign donation limits is expected to have an effect in New York. Reform advocates say Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers missed a key chance this week to counter act the ruling.

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6:50am

Thu April 3, 2014
Politics and Government

Anti-corruption panel ends following ethics reform deal

The recently enacted state budget also marks the end of a commission that was investigating corruption in the legislature. Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to dismantle the Moreland Act panel as part of a deal on ethics reform.

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5:55am

Wed April 2, 2014
Politics and Government

Cuomo, legislative leaders admit some unfinished budget issues

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are touting the virtues of the newly enacted state budget, but the spending plan has its share of critics.

Cuomo says one of the most important accomplishments achieved by him and the legislative leaders is that the budget was passed on time, for the fourth year in a row. And he used a baseball metaphor, complete with baseballs and bats for props, to describe the feat.

“This is the grand slam budget,” Cuomo said. “I’m pleased and proud.”

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7:40am

Tue April 1, 2014
Politics and Government

State lawmakers pass budget before deadline

The New York state Assembly voted to approve the state's budget last night, along with the Senate.
-JvL- Flickr

Lawmakers hurried to complete work on the state budget before the midnight deadline, but the spending plan is not without some controversy.

Legislators held a marathon voting session on several budget bills, in an attempt to beat the April 1 deadline. Some of the legislation was not technically printed until the wee hours of Saturday morning, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent an emergency message to waive the three day waiting period required by law.

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3:02pm

Mon March 31, 2014
Politics

Comptroller says public financing plan has serious flaws

New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says the public financing plan in the budget has serious flaws.
Ryan Delaney WRVO

The state’s top accountant says a test public campaign finance plan that would apply only to his office is seriously flawed, and might even be unworkable. 

The budget provision, which first surfaced late Friday, would enact a pilot public campaign finance program limited to the comptroller’s office.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a long time supporter of public finance, says this plan comes too late in the election cycle, and relies on the State Board of Elections, a board widely viewed as incompetent, to set up the program.

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7:43pm

Sun March 30, 2014
Politics and Government

State budget finalized, voting on Monday

Wallyg Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have finalized the details on a $138 billion state budget and say they are on track to meet the April 1 deadline.

The budget includes a multi-step plan that could  lower property taxes, $340 million for schools to start pre-K programs, and a limited test program for public campaign financing.

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5:55pm

Fri March 28, 2014
Politics and Government

Budget negotiations continued at Capitol

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are still struggling to come to a final budget agreement, after the time for an expected announcement came and went on Friday.

Optimistic lawmakers had predicted a final accord on the budget by mid day Friday, but in the end, were unable to achieve that goal.

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7:00am

Fri March 28, 2014
Politics and Government

Budget deal could be reached Friday

Update as of 7:00 a.m. Friday:

Legislative leaders say they expect to have a final agreement on a state budget later today. They need a deal by midday in order to be on schedule for an on time budget when the fiscal year ends on Monday.

Update as of 4:45 p.m. Thursday:

Legislative leaders are less hopeful now that a budget agreement can be reached Thursday because there are too many unresolved details.

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9:24am

Thu March 27, 2014
Politics and Government

Albany budget deal provides little information to the public

When the budget deal is finally reached in Albany, average New Yorkers will have had little access to the details of the important items that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers are discussing. That's because the longtime Albany tradition known as "Three Men in a Room" continues.

The only difference from the decades long tradition of three men in a room budget negotiations is now there are four men in a room. The Senate is led by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, and so has two co-leaders.

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8:25am

Thu March 27, 2014
Politics and Government

FBI investigating alleged corruption in state Assembly, Senate

State lawmakers in the Assembly and the Senate are coming under scrutiny from the FBI. The state Capitol offices of an assemblyman were raided, and a state senator gave a tour of her home property in an attempt to debunk allegations from federal investigators that she engaged in an illegal land deal.

Assemblyman William Scarborough's offices were raided by the FBI, over allegations that he overcharged for travel, lodging and meal reimbursements paid to lawmakers when they gather in Albany for weekly sessions.

Scarborough says he's innocent.

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