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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A poll from Siena College finds that Bernie Sanders has narrowed the gap with Hillary Clinton in the New York presidential primary race, but Clinton leads in key voting groups.

The poll finds Clinton ten points ahead of Sanders, at 52 percent to 42 percent, but Clinton is ahead in voter-rich New York City and the surrounding suburbs. The two are even in upstate, but only around one-quarter of total Democratic voters live there.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

A new poll finds that Bernie Sanders has narrowed the gap with Hillary Clinton among likely Democratic voters in the New York residential primary race, but Clinton leads in key voting regions.

The Siena College poll finds that while 52 percent of Democrats would vote for Hillary Clinton, compared to 42 percent for Bernie Sanders, Clinton is ahead in voter-rich New York City and surrounding suburbs. The two are even in upstate, but that represents just around one-quarter of total Democratic voters. Siena’s Steve Greenberg says there’s also an age divide between the two candidates.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Proponents of New York’s new medical marijuana law say so far, it’s barely functioning, and they say major revisions are necessary to allow more than just a tiny number of patients to benefit.

New York’s limited medical marijuana began in January, but advocates and patients say it has not worked out as well as they hoped. They say strict limits on diseases that are eligible for treatment, no insurance coverage, and near complete lack of doctors who have undergone the required training and will prescribe the medicine has left them frustrated.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a packed arena in Albany Monday night, where he was interrupted by protesters numerous times.

Marguerite Jones / WSKG News

As he began a two-day campaign swing through upstate New York, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke to a very enthusiastic crowd of around 3,000 at an armory in Albany. He got some of the biggest cheers when he called for nationwide ban on hydrofracking.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

A quirk in the newly-enacted minimum wage increase could mean that in upstate New York by the early 2020s, fast food workers could be paid significantly more than other low wage jobs, like home health care workers or grocery store cashiers.

In the state budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature approved a multi-step plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 in New York City and its suburbs, and to $12.50 in the next five years for the rest of the state.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

“We have a government in hiding,” said Dadey. “A government that operates in the shadows and makes big decisions on behalf of the public without any public scrutiny.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Fracktivists, as anti-hydrofracking activists are called, hope to play a role in New York’s presidential primary. They are asking Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as well as Republican candidates, to take a stand against the Constitution Pipeline and other natural gas pipelines, that if approved could criss-cross the state.

More than 200 fracktivists held a rally Tuesday to oppose natural gas pipelines in New York, and to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban them.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Speaking to a crowd of around 2,000 who waited for hours in the cold to hear the address at Cohoes High School in the Albany area, Clinton focused on economic issues, saying she’d push for rebuilding crumbling infrastructures, and mentioning the ongoing water crisis in nearby Hoosick Falls. She also promised to bring back jobs to the once-thriving mill town and other struggling cities in New York.

“I will be the president who brings manufacturing back to upstate New York and America,” Clinton said, to loud cheers.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

The newly approved state budget includes a minimum wage increase that is the result of several compromises.

Announcing the details in a briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo spelled out a complex plan that would allow New York City’s minimum wage workers to receive $15 an hour in three years, Long Island and Westchester employees to get $15 in six years and the rest of the state to reach $12.50 in five years. The governor admits he had to make concessions, but said the new plan will work.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

State lawmakers were down to the wire on meeting the state budget deadline and voting went beyond the midnight deadline, into Friday, once all of the budget bills were finalized.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

There’s a framework deal on the state budget as the Thursday midnight deadline approaches, but it appears less likely that the midnight deadline for passage will be met. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says his minimum wage proposal now includes a pause in the phase-in to $15 after three years, to reassess the health of the state’s economy.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the minimum wage increase now under discussion with the legislature will include a pause after three years, to reassess the health of the state’s economy.

Under the latest plan, the $15 an hour minimum wage would be fully phased in over three years. The timetable for Long Island and upstate would lag behind that. Cuomo says after the first three years, there would be a pause to analyze the effects of the wage hike on the economies of those regions.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Updated at 3:25 p.m.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders appear to have reached an impasse in talks on the state budget, as the March 31 deadline looms.

State Senate leaders abruptly left a nearly two-hour, closed-door meeting with Cuomo, saying that unfortunately, they had nothing new to report.

“We are not there, we’ll get there, but we are not finalized,” said Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says Cuomo’s plan to require New York City to pay a higher share of Medicaid costs remains a sticking point.

stgermh / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders said they hoped to have final agreements on the state budget by Tuesday evening, but no agreement has been reached as of Wednesday morning.

Cuomo says he and the leaders have decided what issues will be included in the budget, like minimum wage and paid family leave, but he says important points remain unresolved.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders say they hope to have final agreements on the state budget by Tuesday evening, and could possibly print bills Tuesday night, to begin voting on Thursday. But by Tuesday afternoon they were still working on reaching final agreements. 

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Lawmakers worked toward a budget deal Monday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated he’s making some concessions on the minimum wage.

Cuomo said he would like budget agreements to come early enough so that all of the bills can be passed by the April 1 deadline. He said he does not want to use what’s called a message of necessity to pass bills faster if agreements come late, but he has not ruled out that possibility altogether.

Doug Kerr / via Flickr

When the state budget is approved next week it will likely not include a discount for frequent users of the New York State Thruway. The legislature has rejected Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to use some of the state’s surplus to subsidize tolls.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Supporters and opponents of a $15 minimum wage in New York are blasting reports that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers have reached a compromise that could stretch out the phase in period, and exempt farmers from the higher pay requirements.  

With the March 31 deadline looming, and the Easter holiday in between, Cuomo and the Senate and Assembly are trying to negotiate a compromise on the governor’s proposal to phase in a $15 minimum wage for New York state.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Top State University of New York officials say they want a tuition freeze at the state’s colleges and universities, and are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to adequately fund SUNY in the budget  so that they don’t have to raise rates for students . The request comes as lawmakers are scrambling to meet a March 31 budget deadline.

SUNY Board Chair Carl McCall says the university board and it’s chancellor don’t want to raise tuition, and they want Cuomo and the legislature to help them avoid it.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s working on a proposal to give New York farmers a break should the State Senate agree to a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Cuomo says he’s putting together a “special modification” for the agricultural industry to help offset potential costs of increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“There are special conditions on farms, we understand that,” Cuomo said  after an event in Niagara Falls. “And we’re putting together a special package for farmers. Because they pose a unique problem.”

fightlaunch / Flickr

New York becomes the last state in the nation to legalize mixed martial arts, following a 113-25 vote in the Assembly Tuesday. The bill was placed on the floor for a vote after a majority of Democrats backed the legislation.

During debate on the Assembly floor, opponents urged the state to continue the ban on mixed martial arts, also known as ultimate fighting. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffe, from the Hudson Valley, says the activity is “sanctioning violence for profit” and has no place in New York .

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The newly elected chancellor of the Board of Regents, Betty Rosa, expressed grave doubts about the state’s use of standardized tests in the schools, saying if she were not on the Board of Regents, she would join the opt-out movement and not permit her children to take the tests.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo concedes that ethics reform is unlikely to be a part of the New York state budget this year, despite the conviction of the two former legislative leaders on major corruption charges. Cuomo blames the legislature for lack of will to enact changes.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

 

People with developmental disabilities and their caretakers held a rally at the state Capitol Wednesday to ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo for financial help if he’s successful in pushing through a $15 minimum wage.

Providers to people with developmental disabilities say they want their employees to earn more money. Steve Kroll, with  NYSARC, says many of its staffers earn less than $15 an hour right now.

“We support giving them pay hikes, because their work is incredibly  important,” said Kroll.

Jenna Flanagan / Innovation Trail/WMHT

Lobbying for and against the minimum wage is intensifying in Albany, with just over two weeks to go until the budget deadline.

Union workers gathered at a rally outside the Capitol, where the main speaker was Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“We’re going to get a $15 minimum wage passed!” Cuomo shouted.

The governor has been traveling the state to events packed by local Democratic leaders and union members, entering the rallies on a bus paid for by the health care workers union 1199.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Assembly and Senate have released budget positions that focus on taxes and spending policies, but very little on ethics reform, even though both former leaders of the legislature face prison sentences over corruption convictions.   

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Three new regents elected by the legislature this week are expected to help lead an ongoing reversal in education policy in New York to less emphasis on controversial standardized tests.

Chris Caya / WBFO News File Photo

An Assemblywoman from Western New York has been sanctioned by the Assembly ethics committee on charges she sexually harassed a male staffer.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who released the news of the punishments after the Assembly had left for the week, said Angela Wozniak will be issued a public letter saying she violated the Assembly’s Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation. Wozniak is a freshman who is a member of the Conservative Party but caucuses with the Republicans. She represents the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Senate Republicans say their version of the state budget will include a 9-year phase in of tax cuts that would eventually total a 25 percent reduction for middle class taxpayers.

GOP Leader John Flanagan said when the Senate majority releases it’s budget plan later in March, it will include a phase in of over $4 billion in tax cuts. They include an extension of a temporary tax cut for middle income earners, which would gradually be reduced to a rate of just over 5 percent for those who make $300,000 a year or less.

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