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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Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The issue of whether to tax the wealthiest New Yorkers at a higher rate is once again a topic at the State Capitol. Assembly Democrats are out with a tax plan that would redistribute some tax revenue from the richest to the poorest New Yorkers.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Assembly approved a one-house bill to establish partial paid family leave in New York as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled he will amend his proposal to provide more money to those who take the leave.

Advocates of paid family leave, who have been lobbying on the issue for years, say movement on the matter from the Assembly Democrats and Cuomo has given them new hope. Donna Dolan leads a coalition.

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A poll finds that voters overwhelmingly support a number of Gov. andrew Cuomo’s priorities for 2016, but New Yorkers still hold mixed views about the governor himself.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo gathered together the same union coalition who has joined him to back the $15 an hour minimum wage effort in the campaign style rally for his newest cause.

“Now is the time to pass paid family leave,” Cuomo told the cheering crowd.

The governor once again invited Vice President Joe Biden, who said family leave only works if it’s subsidized.  

“The neighborhood I’m from, which is a middle class neighborhood, I don’t know anybody who can go three months without a paycheck,” Biden said.

Ed Uthman / Flickr

Some lobbyists, as well as government reform groups, say a new rule approved by the state’s ethics commission that would require them to report contact with the news media in some cases, violates First Amendment rights and would have chilling effect.

The proposal by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) would require public relations consultants to file periodic reports with the commission detailing their calls to the news media if the purpose of the call is to promote an issue or point of view from a paid client.  

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

 

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia spent nearly four hours before the legislative budget committees Wednesday. Though there is currently a moment of calm as the state pulls back from some of the more controversial parts of the Common Core standards, her testimony revealed potential trouble later in the school year if the test boycott movement continues.

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Tensions between upstate state senators and the mayor of New York City were highlighted during a budget hearing on aid to local governments in Albany when lawmakers questioned the mayor for more than five hours.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

It’s been more than 40 years since the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing a women’s right to choose an abortion, but advocates say New York lawmakers have yet to translate the provisions of the landmark Supreme Court decision into law in the state.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Reform groups are giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo an A for effort on his ethics proposals, but they say some of them need to go further, and Cuomo needs to follow through and actually get the plans enacted into law.

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A budget watch dog group is giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo a mixed grade on his budget proposals, saying he’s done a good job reigning in spending, but is making a mistake by shifting some significant costs to New York City.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Senate held a confirmation hearing for  Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s choice for the state’s chief judge, Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore. Meanwhile, Cuomo appointed another nominee to fill the final vacancy on the court -- Michael Garcia, who as U.S. attorney, brought down former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Katie Keier / Flickr

Eight years after the stock market crash and the start of the recession, the New York state Senate leader say it’s time to get rid of a law that limits funding to some schools. The measure was created when the state had a $10 billion budget deficit now that the state is running  surpluses.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been touting a massive infrastructure plan, but budget experts say much of the funding for the projects, estimated to cost $100 billion,  remains unresolved, even with the release of Cuomo’s new budget plan. They also question what they say is a cost-shift from the state to New York City.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo got involved in the rhetoric of the GOP presidential debate, appearing on three morning TV news shows to defend New York against disparaging remarks made by candidate Ted Cruz in Thursday night's debate.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State speech was far less combative than in the past when it comes to education. But, education groups say while they are pleased that Cuomo has reversed his previous unpopular positions, they say his school aid funding proposal still falls short.

The governor, who has attacked components of the public school system as an “education bureaucracy” that must be broken, instead stuck to the positive in this year’s State of the State address.

“We will not rest until our K-12 system is the best in the nation,” Cuomo said.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his State of the State message and $143 billion budget spending plan, which includes nearly $1 billion more for schools next year and ethics reforms.

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Gov. Andrew is to deliver a joint State of the State and budget speech later today, during which the governor is expected to focus on ethics and education policies.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

One day before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, where he is expected to address ethics issues after the criminal convictions of the two legislative leaders, some state legislators are already demanding reforms that would break up the power of the leadership.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to give his State of the State speech on Wednesday. The governor has already spent the past week rolling out a lengthy agenda for the New Year.

Cuomo has already announced more than a dozen separate proposals as part of a 10-day roll out of his agenda leading up to Wednesday’s formal speech. 

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a bit of good news just two days before he’s to give his State of the State address. The governor and his office have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the premature closing of an ethics commission.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has some big ideas for rebuilding the state’s neglected infrastructure. But, will it come with a big price tag?

Cuomo began the week with an ambitious proposal to add a third track to the Long Island Railroad, to cost around $1 billion. The governor also wants to spend $5 million on a feasibility study for a tunnel under Long Island Sound to either Connecticut or the Bronx or Westchester in New York.

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The New York State Senate held a hearing on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Democrats support the phase in to a higher wage, many senators remain uncommitted.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The opening day of the legislative session featured talk of ethics reform, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo chose to be elsewhere, putting off his traditional State of the State message for another week, and giving speeches in Syracuse and New York City instead.

The Senate and Assembly convened  for the first time since both leaders of the legislature were convicted of multiple corruption charges in late 2015 and now face potentially decades in prison.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’ll increase funding to environmental projects as well as state parks, in his 2016 budget. The news was applauded by environmentalists, as well as some business leaders.

Cuomo is releasing parts of his 2016 agenda in the days leading up to his speech. In a speech on Long Island, he said that he’ll increase the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which languished during the long recession and slow economic recovery.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo won’t be giving his State of the State speech for another week, but he has already begun laying out his 2016 agenda. On Monday, he held a rally to raise the minimum wage for all New York workers to $15 an hour.

Cuomo has already begun a piecemeal attempt to increase the minimum wage through executive actions to phase in an increase for state workers and fast food workers to $15 an hour over the next several years.

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As of December 31,  New York state has no chief judge of the Court of Appeals. It’s the second time in recent years that either Gov. Andrew Cuomo or the state Senate have missed a deadline to fill the slot.

Current Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is forced to retire at the end of 2015. Lippman  has reached the age of 70, and under New York state law, he must step down from the bench. In an exit interview with the statewide  public television show New York Now, Lippman criticized that age limit set in law, calling it the “constitutional age of senility.”

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

The second legislative leader to be convicted of corruption has now filed his retirement papers, and is eligible for an annual pension that could reach nearly six figures.

Former Senate Leader Dean Skelos has filed papers to receive his pension, according to the state comptroller’s office. Skelos was convicted in federal court, along with his son Adam, on multiple corruption charges earlier this month.

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2015 saw the fall of two of the three most powerful people in state government, and the rise of one U.S. Attorney. 

Less than a year ago, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Leader Dean Skelos led the legislature. They were both at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech on January 21, sitting on stage, where Cuomo acknowledged his partners in the government triumvirate.

“To a good year, Dean,” Cuomo said to applause from the assembled lawmakers and lobbyists in the cavernous auditorium. “It’s a pleasure to be with you, Mr. Speaker.”

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced plans for mass pardons of young people who commit non-violent crimes. It’s the latest in a string of actions Cuomo has taken in the past year in an attempt to get around opposition from some factions in the state legislature and to further some progressive issues.

New York State Senate

Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to say that he will propose major reforms in the new year in the wake of the conviction of the two top legislative leaders on multiple corruption charges. But, the governor, in a radio interview, said there’s only so far that he can go to reign in campaign donations.

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