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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An upstate business group is seeking tax cuts for small businesses in the new year, and are opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to phase in a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour.

Unshackle Upstate’s Greg Biryla says while portions of  the economy have improved somewhat, including the Albany and Buffalo regions, wide swaths of the Southern Tier, North Country, and Mohawk Valley continue to stagnate, and have lost jobs.

sebastien.barre / Flickr

A study by a reform group finds that if New York were to ban outside income for lawmakers, it would actually effect only a small number of legislators.

Office of Governor Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made anti-sexual assault legislation on college campuses a key part of his agenda in 2015. Six months after signing what’s called the “Enough is Enough” legislation, college officials say it’s helped accelerated a trend toward better awareness and reporting of incidents.

The governor, in his efforts to pass the anti-sexual assault measure, enlisted the aid of prominent women in the political and entertainment world including House Leader Nancy Pelosi and actress and comedian Whoopie Goldberg, who made a video.

Eileen Buckley / WBFO News

New York's education commissioner said no new laws are needed to reverse a proposal in this year’s state budget tying teacher performance reviews more closely to standardized tests. At the December Board of Regents meeting, members voted to postpone the effects of the tests on teacher evaluations for at least four more years.

The latest Siena College poll finds that most people agree with the corruption conviction of the state’s former longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was found guilty on seven counts two weeks ago.

The poll finds that 80 percent think Silver is guilty and the jury got it right, and 89 percent think corruption is a big problem in Albany. But, says Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg, many are cynical about hopes for reform.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

The second of the state legislature’s two former leaders has now been convicted on multiple corruption charges after a jury lost no time in finding former Senate Leader Dean Skelos and son Adam guilty on all eight counts.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

A task force by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reversing a number of policies in the Common Core standards, including parts of a measure on teacher evaluations pushed by Cuomo less than a year ago.

The governor’s task force report, released with little fanfare late on Thursday, also calls for scrapping the Common Core standards, which the governor initially fast tracked, in favor a of a new state generated standard.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Three of seven regions in upstate New York were awarded $500 million dollars each in economic development money, in a contest by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that critics have called the “hunger games.”

The annual awards ceremony took on a game show atmosphere, with lots of slick videos, and an enthusiastic announcer.

The three winning regions Rochester-Finger Lakes, central New York, and the Southern Tier, each received $500 million each in economic development money, phased in over a five-year period.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to try to revise his role in creating the Moreland Commission. He now says the defunct commission was never intended to investigate or prosecute anyone.   

Early in December, Cuomo was asked about the Moreland Commission on government corruption that he created, and then ended. He said it was never supposed to actually probe suspected law breaking or accuse any state politicians of illegal acts.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The last time the state held a constitutional convention, Bobby Kennedy was senator. That was in 1967.  The last time a constitutional convention met and voters actually ratified it’s result, was 75 years ago. It was in 1938, at the height of the Great Depression.

Now voters will have another chance, in November 2017, to decide whether they want to hold another one.

Constitutional convention expert and SUNY New Paltz Dean Gerald Benjamin says if the “stars align” for approval, it will be largely up to one factor.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

 

Later this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to hand out more than $2 billion in economic development funds to regional groups. But a budget watchdog group says there needs to be better measurements to show how many jobs have actually been created and retained.

-JvL- / Flickr

The conviction of Sheldon Silver on corruption charges is not the end of legal proceedings for the former assembly speaker. He and his lawyers are expected to provide details of their appeal of the case as well as ask the trial judge to override the jury’s conclusions and retroactively acquit Silver.  

azipaybarah / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the current legislative leaders have downplayed efforts for new reforms in Albany following the conviction of the former Assembly Speaker on seven counts of corruption. 

Former Speaker Assembly Silver is now facing up to 20 years in prison for illegally gaining millions of dollars through his outside employment. Former Senate Leader Dean Skelos is in the midst of another federal corruption trial, accused of misusing his influence to gain jobs and money for his son.

drummajorInstitute / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has chosen Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore as his choice as the next person to lead the state’s highest court.

Cuomo chose DiFiore, an ally who ran his ethics commission for a time, who would be only the second woman chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals.

“I think she’s going to do an extraordinary job,” Cuomo predicted.

New York State Senate

 


Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke publicly for the first time since the former leader of the Assembly was convicted on seven counts of corruption for abusing his powers to earn outside income. But, Cuomo said he does not think it’s the right time now for a special session on ethics reform.

wadester16 / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due to announce his choice for the state’s next chief judge on December 1.

The list of nominees that Cuomo will choose from to lead the state’s highest court includes potentially the first African American chief judge of the Court of Appeals, as well as a former U.S. Attorney who could be the state’s first Hispanic chief judge.

But, the favorite is the Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, who would be only the second  woman to lead the court.

Matt Ryan / New York Now File Photo

Sheldon Silver has been found guilty on all counts in a federal corruption trial. Silver was found guilty of operating several corrupt schemes in which he essentially monetized his powerful position as leader of the Assembly to illegally gain over $4 million. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Anti-hunger advocates came to the state Capitol in Albany Monday to lobby for measures to help New York’s neediest.

The advocates placed empty paper shopping bags at the office doors of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislative  leaders, reminding them to remember the poorest New Yorkers in the upcoming legislative session.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

 

At a hearing held by the New York State Assembly on expanded voting, advocates argued that New York needs to join more than half of the other states who offer some kind of extended voting.

New York state has among the lowest voter turn out rate in the country, ranking 46th out of 50th in the 2014 statewide elections, which included the race for governor.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

Audio recordings released by the U.S. attorney’s office at the corruption trial of Sen. Dean Skelos aim to show that the former Senate leader and his son colluded to use Dean Skelos' official position to help his son get employment, in what turned out to be a succession of no-show jobs. But the phone recordings paint a revealing picture about how Albany really works behind the scenes.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Uber and other ride sharing services are gearing up to win permission from the state legislature to operate in areas outside New York City. State Senators held a round table discussion of how to craft legislation.

Senators appear open to allowing Uber, Lyft, and other ride sharing services to operate in New York state, as long as they can come up with the right rules. Sen. Phil Boyle, chair of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee co chaired the discussion.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

The New York State Legislature is seemingly back to business as usual, with majority parties holding planning meetings and the new session set to begin right after the holidays. But there has been little public discussion about a corruption crisis that has led to the two most powerful men in the Legislature both on trial in federal court this month.

It’s almost as though they’re taking place in two parallel worlds. In federal court in Manhattan, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Leader Dean Skelos are both on trial for corruption.

timlewisnm / Flickr

The state’s education commissioner said parents who are thinking of opting their children out of standardized tests again this school year should stick with the exams because they will be different than last year’s tests. But, the state’s teacher’s union and a parents group says the changes don’t go far enough.

Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia is hoping to contain a movement that led 20 percent of students to boycott the third-eighth grade standardized tests last spring.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the leader of the Senate Republicans differ on whether New York State should accept Syrian refugees in light of the French terror attacks.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / via Flickr

The state’s latest teacher evaluation system, which was supposed to be in place November 15,  has essentially been put on hold, as 90 percent of school districts have been granted waivers to delay its implementation. It represents a reversal for a policy championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo just last spring. 

The new rules for teacher evaluations were put in place last March, as part of the state budget.  

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he won’t allow a natural gas transfer station to be built off of the coast of Long Island, saying  there are too many concerns, including damage form future hurricanes, and potential terrorism.  

The Port Ambrose transfer station was to be built off of  the beaches of Long Island, and would have allowed tanker ships to load up with liquefied natural gas, then distribute the gas into pipelines on the main land.

Cuomo made the announcement to an enthusiastic crowd of Long Island officials and activists.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO

 


Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he is raising the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour.  That did not stop advocates from protesting at the Dunkin' Donuts at the state Capitol, saying the governor’s recently phased in wage increase for fast food workers is too slow.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The leaders of school districts, teachers unions, and parents are presenting a united front in calling for $2.2 billion more school aid next year.  They say a hard property tax cap with a zero percent increase is making it even more crucial that state lawmakers help them out.

Scott Reif

The state Senate’s newest member, Fred Akshar, known for his chain-saw wielding ad, says he intends to be independent, including from his predecessor Tom Libous, who resigned the seat after a felony conviction.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

As momentum for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour grows, opponents are trying to fight back. Small Business groups, farmers and others who employ low wage workers  are organizing, and a fiscally conservative group is out with a study showing potential job losses.

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