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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The news that the U.S. Olympic teams uniforms will be made in China has stirred up New York’s politicians and business leaders.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he will not necessarily endorse Democrats for election to the closely divided New York state Senate, even though he’s a Democrat. He says he’ll consider candidates on a case by case basis. That stance gives the politically savvy governor a number of options.

Jacob Enos / Flickr

A coalition of business groups is opposing a proposed 50 percent toll hike for trucks on the New York State Thruway, saying it will have a drastic impact on manufacturing, farming, and many other industries.    

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is starting a new effort to push campaign finance reform in New York’s elections.

Governor Andrew Cuomo offered some support to a plan to permit hydrofracking in New York in communities that welcome the gas drilling process.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Commission on Education Reform got an earful at a public hearing held at the state Capitol today, as speaker after speaker complained about a statewide school system that they say is in disarray.

Speakers voiced a litany of complaints to the commission, ranging from over-testing of students, excessive teacher bashing, and school districts drowning in debt.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an anti-cyber bullying bill into law Monday. It requires schools to be more vigilant about cyber bullying of students, and to take steps to prevent it.

According to an analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group, the 2012 session resulted in 571 pieces of legislation approved by both houses of the New York state legislature.  

An important deadline in the state’s ongoing teacher evaluation process occurred Sunday, but most schools reported they would miss it.  

Karen Dewitt / NYS Public Radio

New York’s politicians and major health care providers are largely applauding the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care law.  Meanwhile, an Albany Law School expert says Chief Justice John Roberts may have been concerned about his legacy, and that was a factor in his decision.

The just concluded 2012 legislative session brought mixed results for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is in his second year as governor.  While Cuomo and lawmakers could claim credit for a calm and functional end to the session,  the governor had to drop some of his original goals  in order for that to happen.

Cuomo’s second legislative session was far less dramatic than his first legislative session in 2011, when he convinced the legislature to authorize same sex marriage, instate a two percent property tax cap, and close a massive $10 billion budget deficit.

In his second session, the governor’s record of achieving his stated goals was not as complete.

There are a number of primary elections today for federal posts, including for Congress and the U.S. Senate, but turnout is expected to be very low.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / via Flickr

Cuomo’s proposal to make teacher evaluations public will become law, now that the Senate and Assembly passed the measure on the final day of the legislative session.

Senate Republicans, after a closed door meeting, agreed to take up Gov. Cuomo’s bill to make all evaluations public, without names attached.

The state legislature ended their 2012 session Thursday evening as lawmakers had promised, but they did not manage to finish everything on their list before they left.

The legislative session that’s concluding in Albany seems to be more about what’s not getting done than what is getting accomplished. Agreements were not reached on several key issues.

Governor Andrew Cuomo at this time last year was intensely lobbying lawmakers to pass a bill to legalize gay marriage. This year, he has taken a more hands-off approach to the end of the current legislative session.

A bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana appears dead for the legislative session, now that Republicans in the Senate say they won’t be acting on the bill.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says it’s “highly unlikely” that his bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana will be taken up by the Senate before the legislative session ends on Thursday, and Senate Leader Dean Skelos confirms that.

James F Clay / Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo is telling the legislature to "take it or leave it" over a new bill he’s released outlining how to make teacher evaluations public.

Cuomo says he introduced  legislation on the publication of teacher evaluations just before his own self-imposed deadline of midnight Monday in order to clarify his position on the issue.  He says it’s up to the Assembly and Senate whether they want to pass it, exactly as is, or not.

“That’s the bill, the bill is not going to change,” said Cuomo. “They act on it or they don’t. But there’s not going to be changes and discussions at this time.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he no longer thinks settling the issue of making teacher evaluations public is “urgent,” and will allow the legislature to leave later this week without an agreement on the matter.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have agreed to limit the use of tanning beds by teenagers.

The bill will ban children 16 years and under from going to tanning salons. Seventeen-year-olds will still be allowed to use tanning beds with written permission from their parents.

Supporters and opponents of a plan to allow limited hydrofracking in New York’s Southern Tier region confronted each other at the state Capitol .

For months, the Cuomo administration has been signaling that it might permit the gas drilling process known as hydrofracking in a few areas in the Marcellus Shale region where the majority of people in communities want the gas drilling process to begin.

A hearing by New York Senate Democrats explored the influence of the controversial lobby group known as ALEC in New York State. Those who testified say more light needs to shine on the secretive group and even urged the state ethics commission to start an investigation.

New York state lawmakers plan on leaving Albany for the summer on June 21, but they continue to be gridlocked on the issues of raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour, and offering tax breaks to small businesses as an incentive to create more jobs.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO

A lobbying group closely associated with Governor Andrew Cuomo was the elephant in the room during a hearing by the state ethics commission on new rules for donor disclosure.

A lobbying group closely allied with the policies of Governor Andrew Cuomo has been in the news a lot in the past couple of days, in articles raising questions about  multi-million dollar donations to the group known as the Committee to Save New York,  and policies later advocated by the governor.

Now that Governor Andrew Cuomo has confirmed that a deal with a major gambling company to build a convention center in Queens has fallen through, Cuomo says he’s opening up the bids to more companies.

The governor’s change  of plans come amid reports that the gambling company Genting contributed over two million dollars to a lobbying group closely associated with the governor.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana found during police searches, to  fix what he  says is a “blatant inconsistency” in New York City’s controversial stop and frisk policy.

Governor Cuomo says New York City’s stop and frisk police procedure has unfairly led to the arrest of thousands of mainly young black and Hispanic men who were caught with possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The arrests often lead to criminal records with lifelong consequences that can prevent the young person from getting college aid, or living in public housing.

Supporters of raising New York’s minimum wage have not given up hope of getting a bill passed this session.

With just three weeks left in the legislative session, demonstrations and efforts to put the bill on the Senate floor continue.

The head of the state ethics commission, Janet DiFiore, says she has “done nothing wrong,” after allegations she used her influence as Westchester County DA to obtain welfare benefits for her maid.

DiFiore spoke after a lengthy closed door session of the ethics commission.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is attempting to revive New York’s iconic "I Love New York" tourism promotion campaign with some new ads.

The governor says the state not been aggressive enough in its promotions in recent years.

The "I Love New York" campaign, with its distinctive logo featuring a red heart, was a major advertising and promotional innovation in the 1970s, when it was created.  In fact, says Governor Cuomo and his top economic development aids, it was too successful, and countless other groups and causes have adapted the now iconic image.

Governor Andrew Cuomo gave a rousing speech at a meeting of the State Democratic Party, but stopped short of endorsing a democratic take over of the State Senate.

At the meeting, the new co-chairs of the party, chosen by Cuomo, were introduced.

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