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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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.

For weeks, there’s been a stalemate in Albany over the issue of raising the state’s minimum wage, with Assembly Democrats backing the idea, Senate Republicans opposing it, and Governor Andrew Cuomo remaining neutral in the middle.

Cuomo says he generally backs the measure, but feels that the GOP can’t be convinced.   

Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken the reigns of the troubled New York Racing Association Board, saying he needs to “restore the public trust” in a rapidly changing gaming industry.  

Cuomo convinced members of the independent board that oversees horse racing in New York to agree to a restructuring that will give the governor the majority of appointees on a new, slimmed down board.

The move comes after a series of controversies at the troubled New York Racing Association, which led to the recent firing of its president and top legal counsel over allegations that NYRA knowingly withheld millions of dollars owed to bettors.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking by phone to a gathering of advocates for the poor, says he’s rescinded a 14-year-old state regulation that required food stamp recipients be subject to fingerprinting before receiving benefits.  

“Poverty and hunger are not crimes,” said Cuomo. “So we shouldn’t treat the poor or the hungry as criminals.”

Tara R. via Flickr

This year's statewide school budget vote was the first to take place after Governor Andrew Cuomo convinced the legislature to adopt the property tax cap.

The governor says the tax cap imposed “fiscal discipline.”

He says he’s  pleased  that few school districts attempted to override the cap, that most districts kept tax increases to a minimum and that so many budgets were approved by voters.

He says taxpayers, as well as state government, are tapped out.

The state’s September primary is going to be delayed by two days, now that the legislature has agreed to move the date from Tuesday, September 11 to Thursday, September 13.

Democrats in the State Assembly approved a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage.

The Republican leader of the State Senate offered a spirited defense of his position opposing the measure, but did not rule the issue out altogether.

Democrats in the Assembly approved a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour.  Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has championed the measure, calls it a “moral imperative”.

“It is, I keep saying it, a moral issue,” said Silver.

Assembly Democrats say they have the votes to approve a minimum wage hike when a bill comes to the floor today.

A new Siena College poll finds that New Yorkers are starting to feel more positive about the state legislature- but they still don’t want to see Senators and Assembly members receive a pay raise.

gweggyphoto via Flickr

The American Cancer Society and other health groups are pressing for a law in New York state that would ban anyone under the age of 18 from using a tanning salon. They argue the growing risk of cancer to young people is too great a threat to ignore.

Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Governor Cuomo, who won national praise and attention  for championing the passage of same sex marriage in New York, calls President Obama’s support of gay marriage a “major advancement for equal rights in this country."

The Catholic Church is weighing in on raising the state’s minimum wage, but Governor Andrew Cuomo says the chances of an increase becoming law are "dubious."

Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed his second blue ribbon panel of the week - this time to oversee infrastructure and capital projects including road and bridge repairs for the state.

Karen Dewitt

Anti-fracking groups presented Governor Andrew Cuomo with 200,000 signatures asking for a ban on the gas drilling process in New York,  and a state senator predicts  the opposition will  have an effect on the governor.

New York State Senate

Democrats and Republicans in the State Senate engaged in partisan squabbling over reform of the state’s campaign finance system.

faungg via Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo named a blue ribbon commission to look at the problems facing education in New York, instructing them to come back with an “action plan” not a “theoretical document.”

arimoore via Flickr; taken by Attorney Helen Slottje

Earth Day came and went in New York  without too much discussion of what many environmentalists believe to be the biggest issue facing the state- when and where the gas drilling process known as hydrofracking will  occur.

Governor Cuomo cast further doubt on issues like campaign finance reform and increasing the states minimum wage to become law this year, and says he’s “shifting” to a new phase of governing instead.

Patja / Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he has some goals for the rest of the legislative session, including reforming the campaign finance system and possibly raising the state’s minimum wage.

-JvL- / Flickr

The State Assembly has introduced a bill to permit voluntary public financing of some election campaigns for the first time in New York State.

davelawrence8 via Flickr

New York’s Presidential primary is Tuesday, but the initial excitement over the vote vanished when Rick Santorum dropped out earlier this month. State GOP leaders say they are looking ahead to the general election instead.

The state Republican Party held it's annual dinner in New York City five days before the state's presidential primary. Only one of the remaining candidates was scheduled to speak at the dinner, and it wasn't Mitt Romney.

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