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.

Ways to Connect

Matt Ryan / New York Now

The state legislature’s one-house budgets make some changes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $163 million proposal to offer free tuition at public colleges in New York to some middle-class students.

Cuomo’s plan would have the state pay the tuition at public colleges and universities for students who have a combined family income of up to $125,000 a year when the plan is fully phased in in two years.

National Weather Service - Buffalo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a statewide state of emergency for the duration of the major nor’easter coming through New York.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Senate and Assembly will release their one-house budgets this week, as the March 31 deadline for a new spending plan draws near. They’ve already given some hints as to what the plans will include.

Senate Republicans are rejecting, for now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s extension of a tax on millionaires. They say they also are against pretty much all of the other taxes and fees in the governor’s budget, including a proposed new tax on internet purchases, a surcharge on prepaid cellphones and higher fees at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Members of a leading senior citizens lobbying group are advocating for a retirement plan in New York that could benefit their children and grandchildren.

The proposal by AARP could help address a big change in employer practices that’s occurred since the group’s members – who are 50 and older – began their working lives. That is the sharp decline in companies that offer pensions, or even 401(k) retirement accounts, leaving younger workers with no opportunities at work to save for their retirement.

www.bbb.org

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health department is analyzing the plan in the Republican Congress to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, and finds it carries a heavy price tag for New York. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

A provision in the Affordable Care Act replacement plan by Republicans in Congress sets up a potential clash with New York state over abortion coverage. 

The plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act by the GOP-led Congress includes tax credits for people to buy insurance policies. The Republican House plan forbids anyone from using the tax credits to buy an insurance plan that covers abortions.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The state budget is due in 3 1/2 weeks, but the biggest push at the Capitol is for a change that is not a spending item. It’s a measure to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as children, not adults, when they are charged with serious crimes.

Many leading legislators say, for them, the issue is personal.

Those who support raising the age when New Yorkers are treated as adults in the criminal justice system from 16 to 18 held a rally Tuesday at the Capitol. Many of the leading Democrats in the Legislature spoke, including Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

David Sommerstein / NCPR file photo

The New York State Assembly held a hearing Monday on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to spend $8 billion in subsidies to keep three upstate nuclear power plants operating for the next 12 years. But no one from the Cuomo administration showed up.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

New York’s health care system is bracing for big changes to the Affordable Care Act. No one knows for certain how it will be altered, but it will almost certainly cost the state a significant amount of money.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Reform advocates are taking exception to remarks made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said there is already enough oversight of potentially corrupt activities in Albany.

Just one month before the state budget is due, numerous interest groups are converging on the state Capitol, asking that they be included in the budget.

Among the more impassioned efforts is one from developmentally disabled people and their caregivers. They are seeking $45 million in state subsidies to pay workers more money to comply with the rising minimum wage in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

A new poll finds that in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s numbers are rising while President Donald Trump’s are sinking.

For the first time in two-and-a-half years, Cuomo’s job approval rating is at 50 percent, after stagnating in the mid-40s since summer 2014. Steve Greenberg, spokesman for Siena College polling, said 60 percent of New Yorkers now say they have a favorable view of Cuomo, the largest number in two years.

File Photo
New York Now / WMHT

Judith Enck, the former regional administrator of the EPA under President Barack Obama, said the new head of the EPA under President Donald Trump threatens to roll back major environmental regulations, including climate change actions and pollution protections.

In an interview for public radio and television, Enck explained why she took the unprecedented step of signing on to a letter, along with hundreds of former EPA staff, protesting Scott Pruitt.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The Trump administration’s decision to rescind protections for transgender students will not affect New York state, according to the state’s education commissioner and legal experts. But they say the action nevertheless sends a “terrible message” to transgender teens.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

The state Legislature is off this week, but the session so far has featured an unusual amount of protests and arrests, and more actions are expected when lawmakers return. 

Twice in the first few weeks of the 2017 legislative session, protesters have been arrested at the state Capitol.

Eight people were arrested in late January. They were demonstrating against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto of a bill that would have provided funding for legal services for indigent New Yorkers.

“We want lawyers!” they shouted.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A leading budget watchdog group is accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo of fudging the numbers in his state budget to appear to stay within his self-imposed two percent per-year spending cap.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Some upstate lawmakers are asking the state to step in and fund refugee resettlement programs that they said have been caught up in President Donald Trump’s travel ban and the resulting chaos.

The federal government funds refugee resettlement centers in upstate New York cities. But under the rules, the money for staff is based on the number of refugees coming in. When Trump’s travel ban briefly froze the entry of refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, the funding for the resettlement centers dried up, too.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is pushing for a measure to stop treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the state’s criminal justice system.

Heastie said the proposals would take 16- and 17-year-olds out of the adult criminal justice system and treat them as juveniles in family court. Heastie, the first African-American speaker, said this is a personal issue for him.

“It’s embarrassing,” Heastie said. “For me, as a speaker of color, it’s hurtful to me that New York and North Carolina are the only ones who still treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.”

Matt Ryan / New York Now

Environmental groups are pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to codify into law some of the steps he’s taken to protect the environment and cut down on pollution related to climate change. At a budget hearing Monday, lawmakers were focused on a more immediate concern — clean drinking water.

Legislative budget hearings were interrupted once again, this time by anti-climate change activists shouting that they want “climate justice in the budget.”

nysenate.gov

The leader of the Senate Republicans said he’s against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to require local governments in each county to offer government consolidation plans to go before voters in November.

Senate Leader John Flanagan told a meeting of the state’s mayors that the governor’s proposal, while “laudable in its intent,” is too “convoluted” and forces local voters to dive too deeply into the sausage-making of local government.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

With the confirmation of Rowan Wilson to the New York State Court of Appeals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has now picked all of the judges on the state’s highest court. He’s the first governor to do so since his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

New York State Senate

A faction of breakaway Democrats in the New York State Senate has been gaining members lately, but they are now facing a backlash, including raucous opposition at meetings in their districts.

When Sen. Jose Peralta announced on his Facebook page that he was joining the Independent Democratic Conference, a growing group of breakaway Democrats in the Senate who form a governing coalition with the Republicans, he said he wanted to “deliver a progressive agenda.”

What Peralta did not expect was a backlash in his Queens district.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the leader of the state Senate are not as enthusiastic about making New York a sanctuary state as are Assembly Democrats, who passed a bill earlier this week.

Cuomo, who has spoken out strongly for immigrants and against President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, is not committing right now to support a bill to designate New York as a sanctuary state for immigrants.

“We have to review the bill because exactly what a sanctuary state is, is a little ambiguous,” Cuomo said in Schenectady on Wednesday.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s acting tax commissioner took heat Tuesday from Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature over delays in the STAR rebate program. The hearing was interrupted by protesters who want higher taxes on millionaires.

Lawmakers changed the rules of the STAR school property tax rebates so that new homeowners would get their rebates by the end of September to use them toward their tax bills. That was September 2016. Five months later, some senators and Assembly members say they are hearing from constituents who still have not received their money.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York Assembly moved Monday to establish New York as a sanctuary state, but the measure faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

Assembly Democrats are backing measures that would give the entire state sanctuary status for immigrants.

Matt Ryan / New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to pass an amendment enshrining the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 abortion decision Roe v. Wade into the state’s constitution is not gaining much traction in the state Senate.

Cuomo announced his plan at a Planned Parenthood rally but has so far offered no details. An effort to pass a law codifying the rights in Roe v. Wade has stalled in the Senate for years.

nysenate.gov

New York State Senate Leader John Flanagan said he’s not running for governor right now, but in an interview with New York state public radio and television, he admitted that he’s thought about it from time to time.

Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, said in “real life,” he’s occupied full time with leading the Senate, where Republicans rule in conjunction with several independent Democrats.

“That is my absolute, overarching No. 1 priority,” Flanagan said.

Matt Ryan / WMHT File Photo

Lawmakers grilled Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development chair Wednesday at a budget hearing, as some of the programs are embroiled in a corruption scandal that’s led to charges against several former associates of the governor.

Nine people have pleaded guilty or been indicted in connection with alleged bid-rigging and other corruption charges involving some of Cuomo’s economic development programs. They face trial later this year.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Eight protesters were arrested outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Tuesday as they called for more money for legal aid services for the state’s poorest.

Protesters chanted, “What do we want? Lawyers,” and blockaded an entrance to Cuomo’s suite of offices at the Capitol.

After years of what critics say was underfunding legal aid for New York’s lowest-income people, the Senate and Assembly passed a bill in 2016 to create a state-funded system to ensure that indigent criminal defendants receive legal representation, as is their right under the U.S. Constitution.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a crowd of cheering Planned Parenthood advocates that he’s proposing an amendment to put protections from the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into the state’s constitution.

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