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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Ryan Delaney / WRVO

For the first time in several years, New York state has a surplus of between $3 billion and $4 billion. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s still looking at options on how best to use it.

The state has recently been the beneficiary of a windfall from major lawsuit settlements with several banks and insurance companies. After years of running a debt or breaking even, Cuomo says New York now has more than $4 billion additional dollars.

The governor says he’s still thinking about the best use for the money.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is using money from his $35 million campaign war chest to pay for a criminal defense lawyer in a federal probe of his office. Critics say while it’s legal to do so, it’s not an appropriate use of campaign money.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Details about alleged interference in an ethics probe by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides are leaking out daily, and most newspapers have run critical editorials. But it remains to be seen how deeply the controversy will affect the race for governor, where Cuomo is still the front runner by a wide margin.  

There’s been a steady drip of bad news for the governor and his administration since a New York Times in depth story about potential interference by top Cuomo aides in a corruption commission investigation

teachoutwu.com

The challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the state’s Democratic primary for governor, Zephyr Teachout, is facing a challenge of her own from the Cuomo campaign. Teachout will be asked in court to prove that she’s really been a resident of the state for the past five years.

MemphisCVB / Flickr

The New York State Board of Elections approved the language for a ballot amendment that would change the way redistricting is done in New York. But not everyone is happy with the wording, or the amendment.

The November ballot amendment would permit the Senate and the Assembly to appoint members to what the amendment describes as an “independent” commission to redraw legislative district lines every ten years, as required by the census.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirms that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent a warning letter to the lawyer representing the now disbanded Moreland Act Commission on ethics, as first reported in The New York Times.  In the letter, The Times says, Bharara threatened to investigate the governor’s aides and maybe even Cuomo himself for “possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.”

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s opponents in the November election race are stepping up accusations over the ethics commission scandal and citing sections of state law that they say might have been broken by the governor’s aides.

Lt. Gov. candidate Tim Wu, who along with Zephyr Teachout, is challenging Cuomo and Kathy Hochul in the state Democratic primary, teaches New York state criminal law at Columbia University.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

The little known and underfunded Republican challenger for New York governor has been getting a boost from incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s troubles over alleged interference in an ethics panel. Rob Astorino has been doing his best to keep the controversy, first reported in an in-depth story in the New York Times, alive.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his first public appearance since a potentially damaging news story about allegations his staff tampered with an ethics probe, tried to change the subject by talking about economic development.  But the story continues to dog the governor.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not held any public appearances since a potentially damaging New York Times story that reported that his top aide interfered in a corruption probe when it focused on Cuomo donors. But on Monday morning, the governor is scheduled to visit the University of Buffalo, where the press will try to ask him questions about the Moreland Act Commission and his office's involvement.

Cuomo’s political challengers leaped on The Times story, that alleges a top aide to Cuomo squelched subpoenas to the governor’s donors and associates.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News (file photo)

The fallout continues over whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide interfered with an ethics commission probe, with some now saying that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman could have done more to protect the integrity of the investigations.

Schneiderman’s opponent in the fall elections is one of those raising questions about whether the attorney general, who was key to the formation of the ethics commission, could have been more involved and done something to stop alleged interference in probes by Cuomo’s aides.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’ s political opponents is calling on Cuomo to hold an explanatory press conference, and  another is demanding that the governor to resign after an in-depth account in The New York Times reports that the governor’s top staff repeatedly interfered in an ethics commission investigation.

Cuomo created the ethics commission under the state’s Moreland Act a little over a year ago amidst rampant corruption rampant in the legislature, that included a string of indictments, resignations and jailings of lawmakers.

Zack Seward / WXXI

A poll conducted fifteen weeks before Election Day shows incumbent New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is maintaining a wide lead over his nearest challenger.

According to a recent Siena Research Institute poll, Cuomo is 37 points ahead of Republican challenger Rob Astorino.  The Democrat also has a high favorability rating, while 60 percent of voters have never heard of Astorino.

Candidates’ financial statements were released earlier this month, and Cuomo reported having $35 million, compared to Astorino’s $2.4 million in the bank.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO/file photo

The president of the state’s teachers’ union says members are not yet ready to rescind a vote of no confidence in state Education Commissioner John King, despite improved relations in recent months.

New York State United Teachers President Karen Magee was elected in April amid deep dissatisfaction over education policy in New York.  Magee ousted a three-term incumbent, and teachers held a symbolic vote of no confidence in King, over what critics call a botched roll out of the new Common Core learning standards.

Kathy Hochul/Facebook

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate, lieutenant governor candidate Kathy Hochul, is explaining why she now feels differently about undocumented immigrants. Hochul, the former Erie County clerk, once wanted to turn immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally over to federal authorities.

Hochul has been meeting privately with key Latino leaders since her nomination in May. She says it was a different time and place back in 2006, when she was Erie County clerk and opposed to then Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to issue drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Matt Ryan, New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is creating another ballot line for the November elections -- the Women’s Equality line.

Kathy Hochul, Cuomo’s running mate, lieutenant governor candidate and former western New York congresswoman, announced the formation of the new ballot line at a press conference with women supporters near a statue of Eleanor Roosevelt on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“It’s time we organized our own movement led by our own political party,” Hochul told the cheering crowd.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

A key oversight board approved half of the amount Gov. Andrew Cuomo had sought for a loan from a clean water fund to help pay for the construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge. But the meeting included accusations from a board member that Cuomo administration officials are trying to hide bad news about future toll hikes on the bridge and the rest of the New York State Thruway.

Public Authorities Control Board member, state Sen. John DeFrancisco, cast the deciding vote to go ahead with the loan that was reduced from around $500 million to just over $250 million.

Matthew Powell/flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s not concerned about reports that the casino gambling industry may not be all that healthy. The negative news comes as the state is considering authorizing four new gambling centers in the next few months.

One third of Atlantic City’s casinos, including one run by Donald Trump, have announced plans to close, and Moody’s investor rating services has downgraded the casino industry from stable to negative citing “declines in comparable monthly gaming revenue.” 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is already ahead of his Republican challenger in name recognition. Now, according to required campaign disclosure filings with the state Board of Elections, Cuomo is far ahead in fundraising as well.

Cuomo, who already had more than $33 million in his campaign war chest, took in an additional $8.4 million during the first six months of the year and spent around $6.5 million, leaving him with a balance of more than $35 million.

Rob Astorino, the GOP candidate for governor, faces an uphill battle against the incumbent governor.

Karen DeWitt

Environmentalists are urging a key review board to vote no on a request from the Cuomo administration to help finance the rebuilding of a major Thruway bridge with a fund designed for municipal clean water projects.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration wants to use money from a revolving loan fund, designed to help local governments keep their sewer and water treatment systems up to date and their drinking water clean, to instead help pay for the massive Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project.

William Hartz

Advocates for a higher minimum wage are urging for better wages for workers who rely on tips. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to create a committee to consider raising the minimum rate for the workers, and the groups say they have evidence that an increase is needed.

Currently, tipped workers in New York are not covered under a new law that allows the state’s minimum wage to increase to $9.00 an hour by 2016.  The minimum wage for workers like waiters and pizza deliverers who receive tips is still set at $5.00 an hour.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

A group of healthcare professionals are seeking a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health department, saying they have compiled a compendium of new and ongoing research highlighting numerous health risks associated with the controversial natural gas drilling process called hydrofracking.

The health experts include a doctor, a veterinarian, and a Cornell University medical professor, who have requested a meeting with Cuomo’s acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, to go over the growing number of studies indicating numerous health risks associated with fracking.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO file photo

The Republican challenger for governor, Rob Astorino, has proposed multiple debates in locations around the state with incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor has so far not accepted any.

In a video, Astorino says the debates should be held in every region of the state between now and election day.

“I challenge Gov. Cuomo to a series of at least eight regional debates around New York state,” Astorino said.

Astorino says he agreed to five one-hour debates when he ran for his second term as Westchester County executive.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Zephyr Teachout, the Democratic primary challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, expects to file more than 40,000 signatures late Thursday to obtain a place on the ballot for the September primary voting.

Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor, says she’ll file her petitions in the final hours before the deadline, at around nine Thursday evening.

“We have over 40,000 signatures of registered Democrats, and we expect to have 45,000 signatures,” Teachout said.

Matt Ryan, New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate, lieutenant governor nominee Kathy Hochul, is keeping an unusually low profile during the first months of the election campaign. The lack of public campaigning by Hochul is starting to raise some questions.

Kathy Hochul, a former one-term congresswoman and former Erie County clerk, appeared with Cuomo at the state Democratic convention in May, one day after she was chosen to run as lieutenant governor.

Hochul promised the audience that she would “carry our message of hope and optimism across this great state.”

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

The Republican candidate for governor in New York is petitioning to run on a new ballot line that capitalizes on public opposition to the new Common Core learning standards.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is gathering signatures to run on a third ballot line in November. In addition to the GOP and Conservative party slots, Astorino has begun a new ballot line called Stop Common Core. He admits it could give Democrats and others who are reluctant to vote for the Republican Party another option.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York is now the 23rd state to allow medical marijuana, now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill into law. But, it will be some time before patients will have access to the drug.

New York will now permit patients with diseases like cancer and AIDS to have access to some forms of medical marijuana. Cuomo, who in the past opposed the idea, came around  after several new regulations and restriction guarantees were written into the legislation.

Senate Republicans have a new strategy in what’s shaping up to be an election battle for control of the New York state Senate. They say now that a group of breakaway Democrats is abandoning them and rejoining the rest of the Democrats, the Senate will be dominated by New York City liberals who won’t care about upstate and Long Island.

The five-member Independent Democratic Conference  announced it would break its nearly two-year-old  alliance in ruling the Senate with the Republicans, and plans to join the Democrats in a coalition government after the November elections.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Senate Independent Conference Leader Jeff Klein says even though his group now plans to realign with the Democrats in the Senate, he won’t rule out working with Republicans in the future.

-JvL- / Flickr

Two Democratic factions in the New York State Senate say they are joining to form what could be a strong Democratic majority in the Senate, leaving Republicans, who up until now have ruled the chamber in a coalition government, out of power.

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