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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7:19am

Mon September 23, 2013
Politics and Government

Second hearing Tuesday for Moreland corruption commission

The second hearing of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, which is targeting corruption in the legislature, will be held Tuesday evening in Albany. Government reform groups are scheduled to testify, and some say the commission should be looking at some of the campaign contributions to the governor himself.

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6:30am

Fri September 20, 2013
Politics and Government

Casino referendum wording increases odds that amendment will pass, say critics

This November, voters in New York will decide whether the state will allow up to seven new resort-style gambling casinos, when they vote on a constitutional amendment. But the wording of the actual referendum on the ballot may increase the odds of the new casinos being approved.

Most ballot referendums proposing constitutional changes are written in very drab, and even confusing language. But the proposal to change the state’s constitution to allow up to seven new gambling casinos is different.

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4:31pm

Thu September 19, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says Washington gridlock won't affect Obamacare in NY

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said threats in Congress to defund Obamacare won’t have any effect on the federal Affordable Health Care Act going forward in New York.

Cuomo said even if Congress is gridlocked over funding for the federal health care act, New York will still be going ahead on Oct. 1 with the required health care exchanges.

 “The health exchange is up and running,” Cuomo said on a trip to Niagara Falls. “I don’t believe there’s going to be any effect on the state.”

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7:48am

Thu September 19, 2013
Regional Coverage

Anti-fracking group sues NY Department of Health

CREDO.fracking Flickr

It’s been nearly a year since the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state health commissioner would conduct a review to determine whether hydrofracking could be done safely in New York. Since then, little information has been released on the ongoing study. Now, an anti-fracking group is suing the state to find out what exactly is being reviewed.

The 23-year-old Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association (SLPWA) filed papers in the New York State Supreme Court to demand that the public be allowed to know what exactly Cuomo’s health commissioner is reviewing.

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6:47am

Thu September 19, 2013
Politics and Government

Corruption hearings continue in Moreland Act Commission meeting

A commission appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate public corruption is holding its first series of hearings. At the kick-off event in New York City, a prominent figure in busting corruption in the legislature announced he’s found a back door way to confiscate the pensions of convicted state politicians.

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6:50am

Wed September 18, 2013
The Upstate Economy

DiNapoli wants to invest into more NY-based companies

The state comptroller says he’s looking for more start up companies and entrepreneurs to invest in, as part of a partnership between the state’s pension fund and private equity managers.

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7:00am

Mon September 16, 2013
Politics and Government

GOP leader says there's interest in challenging Cuomo in 2014

file photo
Zack Seward WXXI

The primaries are over and the general election in November is still weeks away, but already many in the political world are thinking about the next significant contest on the horizon -- the 2014 statewide elections. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, in an interview with New York State Public Radio and Television, says he’s working to finding a Republican candidate to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and says several people are interested.

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6:46am

Fri September 13, 2013
Politics and Government

Environmentalists say decline in pollution enforcement can harm New Yorkers' health

An environmental group says budget cuts at the state’s environmental agency has meant up to 75 percent fewer inspections of polluters like power plants and hazardous waste sites.

David Gahl, with Environmental Advocates, says years of budget cuts at the state Department of Environmental Conservation, known as the DEC, has led to a one-third reduction of staff, and an even greater decrease in the number of inspections of potential polluters.

“DEC is looking less and finding less,” Gahl said.

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7:59am

Wed September 11, 2013
Politics and Government

Mayors in 2014 face big fiscal challenges

Whatever is the outcome of Tuesday’s primaries, most mayors who win a new term in cities across the state will face a similar challenge - how to get their municipalities back on secure financial footing.   

The next political leaders of New York City, smaller cities upstate, and even large suburban counties like Nassau County, will all face a big test once they take office; how to solve mounting fiscal difficulties.

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7:25am

Mon September 9, 2013
Politics and Government

Environmental advocates say better staffing more important than bond act

The leaders of the environmental committee in the New York state legislature have proposed a $5 billion environmental bond act, to be voted on in November 2014. But at an Assembly hearing on the state’s environmental budget, advocates say a bigger concern is dwindling staff at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Assembly Environmental Committee Chair Robert Sweeney is sponsoring a bill to create a $5 billion environmental bond act to promote clean water, clean air and to preserve public land.

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6:52am

Fri September 6, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's "death penalty" remarks on failing schools draws reaction

knittymarie/flickr

The school year starts for New York children this week and next week. It comes amid concerns regarding low test scores for many of the state’s students, and harsh rhetoric from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying he wants a “death penalty” option for dealing with failing schools.  

Most of the state’s school children did not measure up in new tests administered last year. Only 31% passed the new math and English exams, according to the State Education Department. Numbers were higher in suburban schools and lower in urban and rural areas.

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6:21am

Thu September 5, 2013
Politics and Government

NY Senate hearing places focus on special tax breaks

Members from several progressive groups hold signs during a press conference.
Karen Dewitt/WRVO

Senate Republicans held a hearing on how to cut taxes, while also questioning whether some targeted special tax breaks are worth the money. Meanwhile, some groups complained that they’d been unfairly excluded from the discussion.

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7:22am

Wed September 4, 2013
Politics and Government

Business group pushes for tax cuts, fracking to revive upstate economy

WBFO

An upstate pro-business group says regions of the state north of Westchester need special attention in the coming months to help the floundering economy. The group Unshackle Upstate is proposing a series of tax cuts, as well as a start to hydrofracking as the remedy.

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8:21am

Mon September 2, 2013
Politics and Government

New York City voters may decide upstate gambling expansion

Matthew Powell/flickr

This November, voters will get a chance to decide whether or not to expand gambling in upstate New York. But because of a quirk in the election calendar, it’s likely that downstate voters will be the ones to make that decision.

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5:27am

Fri August 30, 2013
The Upstate Economy

Report: New Yorkers pay a price for longer unemployment

A new report on the status of workers finds the period since the 2008 market crash may turn out to be a “lost decade” for New Yorkers, as wages stagnate and the average time for unemployment lengthens.

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8:32am

Tue August 27, 2013
Politics and Government

Former governor Paterson reflects on March on Washington

Governor Hugh L. Carey’s Secretary of State Basil Paterson (left) shakes hands with his sons, David (center) and Daniel (right) in the Red Room of the Executive Chamber in the Capitol Building.
New York State Archives

Wednesday marks 50 years since the famous March on Washington, when more than 200,000 Americans gathered in support of civil rights. Capital correspondent Karen Dewitt sat down with former governor David Paterson, the first African-American to serve as governor of New York state, to talk about the event and its impact on his life.

Karen Dewitt: Gov. Paterson, we’re really glad you could join us to talk about this topic. First of all, I want to know how old you were when the March on Washington happened.

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6:53am

Thu August 22, 2013
Politics and Government

GOP leaders "welcome" Obama to upstate with criticism

Top state and national Republican leaders hammered President Barack Obama and questioned his motives for a planned bus tour of upstate New York to discuss access to higher education. The tour begins in Buffalo on Thursday.

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, called Mr. Obama’s planned trip a “lame duck bus tour," and predicted that the president would focus on the same old policies that he says haven't worked.

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6:54am

Tue August 20, 2013
Politics

Groups want Cuomo-sponsored probe to look at campaign loophole

A leading government reform group has some advice for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission’s ongoing investigations. They say look at a major loophole that has allowed $98 million in unlimited donations to flow into what’s known as party housekeeping accounts.

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6:02am

Mon August 19, 2013
Obama visit to Syracuse

Obama to be greeted by anti-fracking protesters

Bosc d'Anjou Flickr

President Barack Obama is planning on visiting upstate New York this week to promote an education plan. But whenever a major politician visits the region, the issue of hydrofracking is often on the agenda, whether they like it or not.

Obama’s planned trip to Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton will focus on the importance of getting an affordable college education for students.

But activists opposed to hydrofracking, also known as fracking, want the topic of natural gas drilling to be on the agenda, as well.

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7:20am

Fri August 16, 2013
Politics and Government

Ethics commission faces abortion controversy

A political controversy involving the issue of abortion has erupted this summer at the state’s ethics commission. It stems from whether some not for profit groups should be granted exemptions from publicly disclosing their donors. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, known as JCOPE, is charged with increasing financial transparency when it comes to politicians and the groups who lobby them.

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7:11am

Tue August 13, 2013
Politics and Government

Husband of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's aide fired, under investigation

William Rapfogel (left), was fired from the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and is facing a criminal probe from the New York Attorney General's office.
Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty

There’s more bad news for people with ties to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The husband of a top aide to the speaker has been fired from his job at a top New York City not for profit and is under criminal investigation by the state attorney general.  

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has confirmed that his office has launched a criminal probe of William Rapfogel, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, one of New York City’s largest human services agencies.

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3:58pm

Mon August 12, 2013
Politics

Cuomo rebounds with voters, most are embarrassed by Weiner, Spitzer

A new poll finds most New Yorkers are ashamed of the candidacies of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer for mayor and comptroller of New York City, respectively. The Siena College poll also finds that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in contrast, is enjoying a minor rebound with voters.

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7:26am

Mon August 12, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo spending his time upstate this summer

NYS Governor's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s name is frequently mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2016 -- that is if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run. But first, the governor has to think about  his 2014 re-election race and how to shore up his support in upstate, where he’s been flagging in the polls.   

During the past several weeks, Cuomo has spent much of his time in upstate New York.

He paddled in a whitewater rafting contest he organized in the Adirondacks, to boost tourism.

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7:36am

Fri August 9, 2013
Politics and Government

Expansion of gambling could bring expansion of gambling addiction

Matthew Powell/flickr

New Yorkers have a chance to vote this November on whether there should be more gambling in the state.  Those who treat people with gambling addictions say it will likely result in more problem gamblers.

The New York Council on Problem Gambling is a not for profit, affiliated with the state agency on alcohol and drug abuse. It coordinates and publicizes treatments for New Yorkers with gambling addictions.

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4:40pm

Wed August 7, 2013
Education

As expected, state test scores drop significantly

Test scores for third through eighth graders were released Wednesday and they show a dramatic drop in the number of New York state students who are considered proficient in math and English.

Less than one-third of students in the third through eighth grade, around 31 percent, passed the new math and English exams given for the first time this year, says Regents Chancellor Merrill Tisch, who made the announcement on a conference call.

“As anticipated, the scores we are announcing today are significantly lower,” Tisch said.

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3:51pm

Tue August 6, 2013
Politics and Government

Subpoenas issued from Moreland Act

The co-chairwoman of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission on public corruption, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, says subpoenas have been sent out and more public hearings are planned.

Rice was at the Capitol for the third private meeting of Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission. She says several subpoenas have been issued, but they have to be kept secret for now so that the ongoing investigations won’t be jeopardized.

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6:31am

Mon August 5, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo quietly pursuing government consolidation

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that he would close several more state prisons, using provisions of a law that allows him to bypass the legislature. It’s part of a pattern of government consolidation that the governor has been quietly pursuing since he took office.

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6:42am

Fri August 2, 2013
Politics and Government

Assembly GOP Leader calls for special session

Office of Assembly Minority Leader Brain Kolb

The Republican leader of the state Assembly is calling for the legislature to return for a special session to wrap up some unfinished business.

The legislature adjourned at the end of June with no firm plans to meet again before next January, but Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb says there’s too much left to do to wait until next year.

“I definitely think we should go back,” Kolb said.  

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6:42am

Thu August 1, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo: Voters will decide whether gambling expands in New York

grilled cheese/flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it’s now up to the voters to decide whether they want to expand gambling in New York. He’s signed into law a plan to build casinos upstate, but the public must approve a change in the state’s constitution in order for it to move forward.   

The new law permits up to four gambling casinos in upstate New York, as long as a referendum on November’s ballot is approved to amend the state’s constitution to allow the expanded gambling.

Cuomo says it will be up to the voters to decide.

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6:56am

Wed July 31, 2013
Politics and Government

Beleaguered state ethics committee loses another commissioner

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, met Tuesday and spent most of its time in a private session, as Patrick Bulgaro, a key appointee of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, resigned from the board.

Silver was the subject of a recent ethics commission probe, which examined his role in the sexual harassment charges against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez. The report found Silver was not guilty of any wrongdoing, but did criticize his role in a secret $100,000 settlement to two of Lopez’s alleged victims.

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