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 legalized gay marriage four years ago. Today, state leaders reacted with enthusiasm to the Supreme Court ruling.

In honor of the court ruling guaranteeing the constitutional right to same sex marriage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the lights on the World Trade center tower will be lit in rainbow colors on Sunday night.  

Cuomo, who arm twisted state Senators to win the same sex marriage vote in 2011, said in a statement that the court “is on the right side of history."

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the legislature finally settled all of their differences to finalize the legislation to end the session.

The measure, colloquially known as “the big ugly," contains a four-year extension of the rent regulations, and a corresponding continuation of a property tax cap, as well as new rebate checks sent to homeowners just before Election Day 2016.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The legislature ​hoped to pass final end of session bills Thursday, two days after a framework deal was announced by legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The session is limping to a close, after a year that’s seen the resignation of both leaders of the legislature over corruption scandals, and ongoing federal probes.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Nearly one week after the legislative session was supposed to end, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have announced a deal on all major end of session issues, including renewal of New York City’s rent laws and a related property tax cap, as well as a new tax rebate program for property owners.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

The fourth and final hearing was held by a board specially appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to consider raising the minimum wage for fast food workers in New York.

Outside, supporters of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour held a rally.

Inside, dozens of fast food workers were among those who testified at the last hearing held by Cuomo’s wage board, which is examining whether to raise the state’s minimum wage beyond the current rate of increase to $9 an hour by the end of 2015.

NY Assembly Video (file)

Legislative leaders continued meeting behind closed doors with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, one day before lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol. The legislature extended its session for another week after failing to reach agreement on how to renew New York City’s rent laws. The laws are temporarily renewed until Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, following talks with the governor, says it’s a hopeful sign that he, Cuomo and Senate Leader John Flanagan are still in communication.

“We’re still talking,” Heastie said. “Things are better, but we’re not close.”

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It turns out the legislative session will not be ending as planned and will continue on for at least another week.

After a week of gridlock, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders decided to take a break and adjourn for five days. Before they left, they renewed New York City’s expired rent laws, but only until Tuesday.

stgermh / Flickr

​The legislative session is now likely to go into next week, as ​Gov. Andrew Cuomo and ​lawmakers ​have agreed to renew New York City’s rent laws for five days, ​​as they ​struggle to reach final deals on that and other remaining issues.  

The leader of the state Senate, John Flanagan, said he’d allow senators to go home for a few days, after they finish their business Thursday evening, even though there are no agreements with the Assembly or Cuomo on the New York City rent laws, a related tax break for real estate developers, and an education tax credit.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Leaders of all of the state’s local governments, as well as unions representing teachers and public workers, are warning state lawmakers not to simply renew the state’s property tax cap without some changes.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The legislative session is expected to  continue for at least longer than scheduled, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders remain gridlocked on extending New York City’s rent laws, and have not settled a host of other issues. The session was supposed to end Wednesday.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, following a private meeting with Cuomo, says he expects the session to last at least another day, as they continue to struggle with renewing the now expired rent regulations.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Twelve days after two convicted killers escaped from a state prison near Plattsburgh, some state lawmakers are considering new legislation and holding hearings to correct what they see as flaws in the state’s prisons system that  may have contributed to the break out.

Wallyg / via Flickr

The New York state legislature is due to adjourn later this week, but there’s still no agreement by Assembly Democrats on an education tax credit sought by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would allow donors a tax credit when they give up to a million dollars for private school scholarships and some public school programs.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The New York City rent laws expired Monday night as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators continued to negotiate on the rent laws, a related pretty tax break for developers, and an education tax credit.   

Assembly Democrats approved a temporary 48-hour extension of the laws, which affect around one million apartments. But rather than pass a temporary extension, Senate Republicans approved an 8-year extension of the laws late Monday night.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The final week of New York’s legislative session begins Monday, and so far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers have still not come to agreement on a number of major laws that expire.  

New York City’s rent laws, which impact over one million apartments, sunset at midnight. They are tied, through legislation, to a property tax cap important to suburbanites and upstaters. Also set to expire -- a tax break for large real estate developers who agree to set aside some of their projects for affordable housing, and mayoral control of the New York City schools.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is promising police and firefighters in New York City a better deal on their disability benefits, as a budget watch dog group warns against the proliferation of end of session bills that give union workers more benefits.

Cuomo made a rare appearance at a rally, held by firefighters and police union members from New York City, to support their push for better disability benefits.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledges that the cloud of corruption over the Capitol is making it harder to achieve end of session deals. Cuomo says currently, there are no deals on any end of session issues, including renewal of New York City rent laws and a related property tax cap, or an education tax credit the governor is pushing.

The governor says the renewal of a tax break for real estate developers, known as 421a, has become problematic, because any changes to the law benefits “some political interest.”

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One of the ethics reforms agreed to in the state budget has still not been passed by state Assembly Democrats, and minority party Republicans say they are worried that the bill will be delayed, or watered down.

When the state budget was approved in late March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced some reform measures, including changing the state’s constitution to deny government pensions to lawmakers convicted of felonies.

stgermh / Flickr

The chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee says an education tax credit bill pressed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not appropriate for the state at this time.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Lawmakers are struggling to reach end of session deals, as the corruption scandals and on going federal investigations seem to be hampering their progress.  

With just over one week left until the session is scheduled to end, lawmakers seem far apart on many key issues. New York City’s rent regulations expire next week, along with a property tax break for real estate developers who agree to set aside some of their project for affordable housing, known as 421a.  

stgermh / Flickr

It’s the second to the last week of the legislative session, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers still have a long way to go before they can agree on key issues.

Rent regulations and the mayor’s control of public schools in New York City expire in June 15, as well as a tax break for real estate developers who set aside a portion of their project for affordable housing. The rent laws are tied, through legislation, to an issue important to suburban and upstate residents, the continuation of a property tax cap.

Ellory Smith / WHMT

The state legislative session is scheduled to end June 17 and a ranking Senate Democrat says there's a lot to be done. But Sen. Mike Gianaris of New York City says he thinks it's a mistake to end the session without acting on ethics reform -- in a year where both leaders of the legislature have resigned over corruption charges. Capitol Correspondent Karen DeWitt interviewed Gianaris about the state of ethics in Albany.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News


A reform group is taking a new approach to trying to close a loophole in the state’s campaign finance laws, as years long attempts to crack down on what’s known as “dark money” donations have failed.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A third poll in as many weeks shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo losing popularity with voters. This time it’s by Quinnipiac University, which puts the governor’s rating at it’s lowest ever.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

About two dozen tenants rights activists, as well as several Democratic state lawmakers were arrested at a protest on the lack of action so far on reforming New York City’s rent laws. The law is scheduled to expire June 15, and protestors want it to not only be renewed, but include more protections for tenants.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

One day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo arranged a meeting  with some state lawmakers and Catholic Church leaders to promote the education tax credit, the measure seems to be losing support among Assembly Democrats, with some Democrats saying they are angered by tactics used by backers, which has included picketing their offices.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston / Flickr

Catholic bishops met at the governor’s mansion with some state lawmakers Monday for a meeting arranged by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the earned income tax credit.

New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, speaking after the lunch with assemblymembers and senators, says it was a positive discussion, and there may be hopes of compromise. The bill includes tax credits for donors who give money for scholarships for children at private and parochial schools.

“There seemed to be a conciliatory atmosphere,” Dolan said. “I just found it very helpful.”

Matt Ryan / New York Now

Despite the arrest of the leaders of both houses of the legislature on corruption charges, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers say they have no plans to pass any additional ethics reforms this session.
It appears likely that a legislative session in which the speaker of the Assembly and president of the Senate have both been indicted will  not end with any significant new reforms.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

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.