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.

Pages

8:00am

Mon November 25, 2013
Politics and Government

State lawmakers fight Cuomo commission subpoenas in court

Leaders of the New York state legislature are in court fighting a request from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ethics commission that they turn over details about their private law clients.

Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans are asking a state Supreme Court Judge to quash subpoenas from Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, demanding they reveal details of private law clients who pay them more than $20,000 a year. Their attorneys are arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the governor to directly investigate the legislature and it violates the separation of powers.

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7:31am

Fri November 22, 2013
Health

State cancer groups ask for more money to promote smoking cessation programs

DucDigital Flickr

Thursday was the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, an effort begun by anti-cancer groups nearly four decades ago to help people quit smoking. This year the American Cancer Society in New York used the day to call attention to a decline in state spending on anti-smoking programs.

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7:43am

Thu November 21, 2013
Education

Education commissioner faces bipartisan grilling by members of state Assembly

The state’s Education Commissioner John King faced a bi-partisan grilling by liberal and conservative  members of the Assembly at a hearing regarding growing concerns about student privacy.

As part of the conversion to the national Common Core standards, school districts in New York are required to place more student records, transcripts, and even behavioral information, like absences and suspensions, in online data bases. The data collection is in many cases run by a private vendor, not the local school or the state education department.  

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7:14am

Wed November 20, 2013
Politics and Government

Progressive groups weigh in on tax reform

Taxes and tax reform are likely to be a major topic in the next legislative session, which begins in seven weeks. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is relying on two separate commissions for ideas about tax changes, while progressive groups and Republicans in the State Senate are also weighing in.

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3:01pm

Mon November 18, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's job performance hits all-time low in poll

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval rating is the lowest it’s been since taking office, according to a new poll. The Siena College survey also finds many New Yorkers are split regarding the implementation of the new Common Core standards in schools.  

The Siena College poll finds only 44% of voters like the job that Cuomo is doing as governor. A small majority, 56 percent, say he’s doing a fair or poor job. Siena’s Steve Greenberg says it’s the first time the governor’s approval rating has dipped below 50 percent.  

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8:25am

Mon November 18, 2013
Politics and Government

Landowners to file lawsuit against hydrofracking delays

File Photo
WBFO

A landowners group says it intends to file a lawsuit before the end of the year against what it says are the Cuomo administration’s unreasonable delays on hydrofracking.

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6:20am

Fri November 15, 2013
Politics and Government

Groups call for ban on standardized testing for young children

Katie Keier Flickr

A coalition of unions and government reform groups are calling for a ban on standardized testing for New York’s school children in second grade and younger.

In a teleconference, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said it’s absurd that the groups are even in the position of calling for a ban on standardized testing for children in pre-kindergarten through the second grade. Mulgrew and others say the tests are inappropriate for four to seven year olds, and should never have been implemented in the first place.

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8:16am

Thu November 14, 2013
Politics and Government

Senators hear more complaints about Common Core

New York state’s Teacher of the Year testified at a state Senate hearing that even she could not receive high marks in her teacher evaluation process, due to what she and others say is the dysfunctional implementation of the new Common Core standards.

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7:23am

Wed November 13, 2013
Politics and Government

Calls for public campaign finance system include a Moreland Commission co-chairman

Advocacy groups are encouraged by recent statements made by the co-chairman of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission, who says he now favors public financing of political campaigns.

Syracuse-area Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick is the co-chairman of Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, and says he has become a convert to using public funds to finance political campaigns.

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8:02am

Tue November 12, 2013
Politics and Government

Nearing start of 2014 campaign season, Cuomo yet to have an announced opponent

File photo
Ryan Delaney WRVO

Now that this year’s elections are over, the political world is gearing up for the 2014 contests. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to seek another term, and so far no one has officially said they will run against him.  

Cuomo sounded like he was in campaign mode the day after Election Day, when he celebrated the passage of a casino gambling amendment that he pushed.

“Are we fired up?” Cuomo asked a cheering crowd.

Cuomo focused on an important issue for any candidate - economic development - which he says the new casinos will bring.

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7:37am

Mon November 11, 2013
Politics and Government

Despite projected budget gap, Cuomo seeking tax cuts

401(K) 2012 Flickr

Now that the elections are over, state budget deadlines are rapidly approaching. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has released a largely positive budget outlook for the new year, though he warns of some uncertainties.

Under reforms adopted a few years ago, state officials including the  comptroller, are required to start the budget process, which ends in late March, even earlier.

DiNapoli is out with his report, and he says the state budget is largely in balance.

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8:12am

Fri November 8, 2013
Politics and Government

Women's Equality Act campaign restarts for 2014

The 2013 legislative session ended in June.
Wallyg Flickr

A coalition of women’s groups is relaunching the Women’s Equality Act, which failed in the legislature earlier this year, with a new strategy that they say could help them win passage in 2014.

The Women’s Equality Act coalition has a new website and are organizing through social media. It's also produced a video using humor to connect with supporters.

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8:18am

Thu November 7, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo touts casino amendment win

Patja Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not lose any time in publicizing a win on a gambling expansion amendment in Tuesday’s voting. The governor made two public appearances in regions that are now authorized to build resort style casinos.

In what amounted to a post election victory lap, Cuomo celebrated the passage of the casino gambling amendment in the Catskills with a crowd of business, labor and local government officials. He called it a huge win.

“This is a game changer,” Cuomo said. “It means jobs. It means business. It means getting the economy running.”

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8:22am

Wed November 6, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo wins on casino and judge retirement age ballot amendments

The success of Proposition 1, the ballot amendment to expand casino gambling, and the failure of the last amendment, to allow judges to serve until age 80, are both wins for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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8:04am

Tue November 5, 2013
Politics and Government

Two Adirondack land swap proposals on ballot

Two of the six amendments on Tuesday’s ballot deal with land swaps in New York’s Adirondack Park. One of the proposals has split environmental groups.

Proposition 4 would clear up some land disputes for property owners on Raquette Lake, in Hamilton County. It would allow the state to give clear titles to around 200 homes along the lake. In exchange, the landowners would contribute to a fund to buy alternative land for the Adirondack forest preserve. There is no organized opposition to that land swap.

But Proposition 5 is more controversial.

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7:54am

Tue November 5, 2013
Politics and Government

Voters get last word on passage of six state amendments

License Some rights reserved by Håkan Dahlström Creative Commons License

There are six amendments on Tuesday’s ballot, ranging from whether New York should allow seven resort-style gambling casinos, to whether judges should be allowed to serve on the bench until the age of 80. Here’s a rundown:

Proposition 1 has received the most attention. It would amend the state’s constitution to change the prohibition on gambling casinos, allowing up to seven resort style gambling centers to be built. A coalition of business and labor groups has been mailing brochures out to voters, and running ads.

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6:15pm

Sun November 3, 2013
Politics and Government

No consensus on amendment to raise judge retirement age to 80

A proposal on the November ballot to allow some state judges to serve until they are 80 years old is not drawing a lot of support, and one court expert says that’s a shame.

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8:19am

Thu October 31, 2013
Politics and Government

State Senate Republicans respond to Moreland Commission subpoenas

-JvL- Flickr

Republicans in the New York Senate, who are targets of subpoenas by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption Moreland Act Commission, are fighting back in court.

The subpoenas were sent by the Moreland Commission to the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, as well as the campaign committees of Democrats, seeking internal documents and emails. The Senate GOP has filed a challenge in Supreme Court, claiming that it’s not fair to compel Republicans to hand over documents that outline their political campaign strategies to a commission appointed by a Democratic governor.

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8:11am

Wed October 30, 2013
Politics and Government

State Board of Elections officials grilled at corruption commission hearing

New York State Board of Elections officials received a verbal drubbing from commissioners on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission, during a lengthy hearing over their failure to pursue complaints about campaign violations during the past several years.

During intense questioning by the commissioners, Board of Elections officials admitted that they failed to follow up on hundreds of complaints and potential election law violations over the past several years. And when they did pursue a very small number of cases, they appeared to bungle the probes.  

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8:05am

Tue October 29, 2013
Politics and Government

Group urges anti-corruption commission to probe Big Pharma campaign donations

e-MagineArt.com Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption commission held another hearing Monday focusing on reforming the state’s campaign finance system.

Common Cause says the Moreland Commission should open a probe to see if there’s a link between around $5 million spent by major pharmaceutical companies on lobbying and campaign donations to New York state politicians, and the failure to pass major consumer-friendly bills regulating Big Pharma.

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7:55am

Tue October 29, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo, Duffy have nothing but praise for each other

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, offered high praise for one another during an event at the Capitol Monday. Their remarks come as questions are raised about Duffy's political future.

Some newspapers have called for an ethics probe after Duffy admitted he’s been interviewing for a job with the Rochester Business Alliance, a trade and lobby group, while serving on Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils. Duffy has now withdrawn from consideration for the job. He introduced Cuomo at a disaster preparedness forum.

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7:47am

Fri October 25, 2013
Politics and Government

Pro-casino coalition airs first ads

ChrisYunker via Flickr

The first ad is out promoting the ballot amendment to build new casinos in New York. It focuses on the benefits casinos might bring and not on actual gambling activity.

The ads, from a statewide coalition of business and labor groups, are currently aimed at downstate voters, where the New York City mayor’s race and county executive contest in Nassau County is expected to draw the greatest turn out on November 5.

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4:20pm

Thu October 24, 2013
Education

Cuomo supports Common Core standards

State Education Commissioner John King is holding a forum in Albany this evening on the new Common Core curriculum standards in New York's schools, a change that has been controversial in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered some support to King and top state education officials, who have received much criticism for the implementation of Common Core.

Cuomo said he understands that change can be difficult, even when it’s the right choice.

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7:58am

Thu October 24, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says state can afford tax cuts

File photo
Zack Seward WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he thinks the state can afford a tax cut next year, despite a projected $1 billion budget gap.

Cuomo says he’s been holding down spending during his first three years in office, with an average growth rate of two percent each year, compared to an annual 10 percent increase before he was governor. He says he expects enough money can be freed up to finance some kind of tax reductions during 2014.

“I believe we’re going to have revenue at the end of this year that we can be talking about a tax cut next year,” Cuomo said. “That’s very exciting.”

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7:37am

Wed October 23, 2013
Politics and Government

Report shows DC dysfunction may decrease Wall Street profits

A report by the state’s comptroller finds that the dysfunction in Washington may take a bite out of Wall Street profits for the remainder of this year.

The analysis by New York state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli finds the recent gridlock in Congress, higher interest rates, and the JP Morgan $13 billion settlement over bad mortgages is contributing to lower earnings and profits for New York’s financial industry.

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7:51am

Tue October 22, 2013
Politics and Government

Poll shows Cuomo poised for safe re-election, with some weaknesses

File photo
Ryan Delaney WRVO

A new poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo well positioned to win re-election next year, but there are some weaknesses in his generally positive numbers.

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7:06am

Mon October 21, 2013
Politics and Government

Corruption commmission probes intensify

An anti-corruption commission appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo has deepened its investigations in recent days. The probes are intensifying as Cuomo comes increasingly under fire, accused of trying to control the panel and even suppress some subpoenas.

A corruption commission appointed by Cuomo has voted to send subpoenas to some key members of the legislature to find out more about their relationships with private law clients.

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6:57am

Thu October 17, 2013
Politics and Government

State Supreme Court rejects casino wording suit

ChrisYunker via Flickr

A state Supreme Court judge threw out a lawsuit challenging the wording of a November ballot amendment to expand gambling in New York. Opponents say they will appeal.

Judge Richard Platkin rejected a challenge from a Brooklyn attorney who said the wording of the November ballot amendment, to allow up to seven new gambling casinos in New York, is biased.

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11:00am

Wed October 16, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's corruption commission will subpoena some lawmakers

A corruption commission appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo has voted to issue subpoenas to some members of the legislature to force them to disclose money paid to them by private law clients.

The Moreland Act commission wrote letters to state senators and assemblymembers who make more than $20,000 a year from outside legal clients, a figure that includes all of the major party legislative leaders. The legislature hired attorneys, who said no.

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6:55am

Wed October 16, 2013
Politics and Government

Anti-gambling advocates destroy slot machine during protest at State Capitol

Anti-gambling activists smash a slot machine during a protest in front of the State Capitol.
Karen Dewitt WRVO

Anti-gambling activists took a sledgehammer to a slot machine in front of the New York State Capitol to demonstrate their opposition to a ballot amendment to legalize gambling casinos in New York state.  

Wielding a sledgehammer, anti-gambling advocates took turns smashing up a Lucky 7 slot machine, at a park with the New York State Capitol in the background, as TV news cameras recorded the event.

David Blankenhorn, with the Institute for American Values, organized the event.

“It felt great,” Blankehorn said. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”

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