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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7:26am

Tue July 30, 2013
Politics

Cuomo compares Weiner saga to a tragi-comedy

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo commented for the first time since the latest revelations about New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner’s sexting activities surfaced. Cuomo is still refusing to get dragged into the race, saying the recent events remind him of tragi-comic theater.

Cuomo won’t take a position on whether Weiner should drop out of the mayor’s race, as many of the governor’s fellow Democrats have demanded. Cuomo tried to downplay the recent news, calling it “summer political theater” in New York.

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7:03am

Tue July 30, 2013
Politics and Government

Prison closures shock and dismay correction officers, lawmakers

JoshuaDavisPhotography/flickr

Correction officers say they are still in shock after Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s prison agency announced late on a July Friday - and with very little advance warning - their decision to close four prisons within the next year. Now, they're asking the legislature to rescind the closures.

Normally, when a governor wants to close a prison or any other state run facility, he proposes the change in his state budget plan in January. The legislature either agrees or disagrees, and a final decision to close or to keep the facility open is made in the completed state spending plan.

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1:38pm

Fri July 26, 2013
Politics and Government

Comptroller DiNapoli: We can't let NY cities go bankrupt like Detroit

The city of Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy has left some in New York wondering whether any upstate cities will be next. State officials say they are trying to help with financial planning guidance, but local governments say more needs to be done.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has created a fiscal stress monitoring system that measures the financial health of New York’s local governments. A preliminary report found two dozen cities, counties and villages are moderately to severely fiscally stressed.

DiNapoli say he hopes they can avoid the fate of Detroit.

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8:01am

Thu July 25, 2013
Politics and Government

Deadline extended for public comments on proposed changes to Verizon landlines

The state's Public Service Commission is extending a public comment period on whether it’s a good idea for Verizon to stop providing land line service to some customers and supply a wireless telephone connection instead.

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8:02am

Wed July 24, 2013
Politics and Government

Hydrofracking decision in New York weighs on supporters, detractors alike

Bosc d'Anjou Flickr

New York today enters into the sixth year of a defacto moratorium on whether to allow hydrofracking in the state. Business and industry groups are expressing dismay over what they say is too long a delay.

In the summer of 2008, then Gov. David Paterson and the legislature imposed an actual moratorium in New York on the gas drilling process known as hydrofracking. After it expired, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s environmental agency began an extended review.

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8:38am

Tue July 23, 2013
Politics

Comptroller DiNapoli: I can work with Spitzer if he wins

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says he thinks he can work with Eliot Spitzer, should the former governor win the post of New York City comptroller, even though he is supporting his opponent in the contest.

DiNapoli says his endorsement of former Assemblyman and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer still stands.

“I can work with just about anybody,” DiNapoli said.

Though he qualified that assessment, saying he’ll have to see “how that plays out.”

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8:05am

Tue July 23, 2013
Politics and Government

DiNapoli calls for changes to federal government rules for same sex couples

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is trying to use the power of the pension fund to increase equal rights for same sex married couples, and has written a letter to President Obama.

DiNapoli is asking Obama to add a “place of celebration” clause to federal government rules and regulations that define benefits for married couples. He says that way, if one member of the couple works for a federal government agency or program, same sex marriages performed in New York and other states where it is legal could be recognized in states that do not allow gay marriages.

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8:54am

Thu July 11, 2013
Politics and Government

Newly formed coalition takes aim at politicians who supported gun control

A coalition of gun rights advocates and others are forming a new political movement to get what they say are disaffected and disenfranchised New Yorkers to vote.

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9:15am

Wed July 10, 2013
Politics and Government

Gov. Cuomo's Moreland Act Commission follows in father's footsteps

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for a Moreland Act Commission to investigate the legislature is not the first time a governor created a panel to probe state lawmakers. In fact, Cuomo’s own father did it a quarter century ago, with mixed results.

When Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, was governor back in the 1980s, he also called on the powers in the now 100-year-old Moreland Act to appoint a commission to look into government corruption.

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8:55am

Tue July 9, 2013
Politics and Government

Fracking opponents in New York say 'Gasland' movies help

Monday night brought the TV premiere of "Gasland II," a sequel to the original anti-hydrofracking movie. In New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision on fracking is still on hold, both opponents and supporters of the controversial drilling process say the films have helped frame the debate.

"Gasland" filmmaker Josh Fox is a frequent participant in anti-fracking rallies at the state Capitol that routinely attract hundreds of people.  

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6:36am

Fri July 5, 2013
Politics and Government

Lawmakers passing fewer bills, more Constitutional Amendments, analysis shows

A look at the 2013 New York State Legislature's session by the numbers finds the recently concluded session resulted in the passage of fewer bills, but more constitutional amendments, as well as a wide range of participation by individual lawmakers.

Bill Mahoney, with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), has spent the days since the legislative session concluded analyzing streams of data. He found the Senate and Assembly passed 650 bills, which is one the lowest numbers in decades, and part of a recent trend.

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9:02am

Tue July 2, 2013
Politics and Government

Gov. Cuomo cracks down on new drivers texting behind the wheel

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed legislation that creates new, stiffer penalties regarding texting while driving for teenaged and new drivers. The law now treats texting as seriously as speeding or reckless driving.

Teenagers just beginning to drive and older new drivers who are caught texting while driving will now see their licenses revoked for sixty days. If they repeat the offense within a half year, their driving licenses will be taken away for another six months.

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9:55am

Mon July 1, 2013
Politics and Government

Gov. Cuomo celebrates legislative victories, says still more to do

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not get all he wanted during the recently concluded legislative session, as abortion rights and campaign finance reform faltered in the final days of the session. But, Cuomo seems to be putting the best face on what he did achieve and is trying to move on with plans that include an investigation of the legislature.

Cuomo began the session in January with a hefty agenda, including an ambitious plan to make New York’s gun control laws the toughest in the nation; and be the first state to react to the Newtown, Connecticut shootings in December.

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9:57am

Thu June 27, 2013
Politics and Government

Women's Equality Act unfinished business in the Legislature

The state legislature left Albany last week with some unfinished business. They did not agree on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act, and Cuomo says at least one house should return to pass some of the bill’s provisions.

In the final days of the session, the numbers nine and 10 became key points of discussion for Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act. That referred to the debate over whether to pass all 10 or just nine provisions in Cuomo’s proposed legislation.

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9:35am

Thu June 27, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says announcement of commission to look into campaign donations imminent

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he will be announcing his Moreland Act commission to investigate the campaign donation filings of the legislature in the “immediate future.”

Cuomo failed to get lawmakers to agree on a package of campaign finance reforms in the just-completed legislative session, and says he will now appoint a commission under the powers of the state’s Moreland Act, to investigate campaign filings at the State Board of Elections. The governor says in the end, it might even work out better.

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9:06am

Wed June 26, 2013
Politics and Government

Ban on campaign contributions by gambling organizations was removed from legislation

When state lawmakers approved a bill to permit new gambling casinos in the final hours of the legislative session, they left something out: a provision to ban campaign contributions to legislators from gambling corporations.

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to create new gambling centers in New York, he said he also wanted to ban campaign contributions from gambling entities to state lawmakers.

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9:00am

Sat June 22, 2013
Politics and Government

Legislature finishes session without women's agenda passage

The 2013 legislative session ended Friday.
Wallyg via Flickr

State lawmakers were finishing up their session for the year, working to approve a measure to build four gambling casinos upstate and create tax free zones at college campuses.

But the final hours of the session were overshadowed by back and forth skirmishing over a Women’s Equality Act, which ultimately failed.

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7:52am

Fri June 21, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's Moreland Act Commission -- potential and pitfalls

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, frustrated by what he says is the failure of the legislature to agree to a reform package, says he’ll follow through with a threat to investigate the legislature, using special powers given to him under the state’s Moreland Act. But there are potential limitations built into the act.

Cuomo says he did not want to compromise on a reform package that includes public campaign financing, and new prosecutorial powers for the state’s district attorneys to root out public corruption.

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7:33am

Fri June 21, 2013
Politics and Government

Women rally to demand Senate vote on abortion rights

Women’s groups rallied outside the New York state Senate chamber, demanding a vote on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point women’s equality act -- that includes an abortion rights provision.

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9:09am

Thu June 20, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo achieves partial win on agenda

governorandrewcuomo Flickr

Deals have been reached between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders on siting new casinos and creating tax free zones at college campuses. But a bill on abortion rights was struggling, and reform measures appear dead for the session.

The agreement on casinos would allow four resort-style gambling centers; one in the Capital Region, one in the Southern Tier, and possibly two in the Catskills, if voters approve the change to the state’s constitution in the fall.

Nassau and Suffolk counties would be allowed to open more slot machines, under the terms of the bill.

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4:08pm

Wed June 19, 2013
Politics and Government

Women's groups say abortion rights vote still possible

Women’s groups say they have not given up on an abortion rights bill passing in the final days of the legislative session, now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has introduced the Women’s Equality Act as 10 separate bills.

Tracey Brooks, president of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, says women’s groups are asking Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos to bring the abortion rights measure to the floor as a stand alone bill. Brooks says Skelos pledged two years ago to allow what's known as a vote of conscience on social issues where senators are divided.

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7:45am

Wed June 19, 2013
Politics and Government

21 arrested as progressive groups protest gridlock on key bills

New York State NOW President Zenaida Mendez is arrested along with 20 others outside IDC leader State Sen. Jeff Klein's office.
Karen DeWitt WRVO

There were several arrests at the state Capitol Tuesday. Advocates took out their anger and frustration on the Cuomo administration and leaders of the state Senate, after it became clear that a progressive agenda that includes abortion rights and public campaign financing is likely dead for the legislative session.

Government reform groups are angry at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying he is giving up too soon on an anti-corruption agenda that includes public financing of campaigns and greater prosecution powers for the state’s district attorneys.   
     

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9:27am

Tue June 18, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's agenda in danger as session wanes

There’s three days left in the legislative session, and chances are dimming for a settlement on an abortion rights provision in a women’s equality act, and for reform of campaign financing and other anti-corruption measures. Meanwhile, a new poll finds the public increasingly dissatisfied with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

As the session winds down, it seems that two of the governor’s top agenda items are doomed in the state Senate.

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9:24am

Mon June 17, 2013
Politics and Government

As end of legislative session looms, no deals yet

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing hard for several legislative items, but there are only four days left in the session.
Ryan Delaney WRVO

There are only four days left in the legislative session, and so far no agreements have been reached between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature on major issues like campaign finance reform or a women’s equality act.

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9:29am

Fri June 14, 2013
Politics and Government

Supporters urge Senate vote on marijuana decriminalization

Members of the legislature’s Black and Hispanic Caucus and their allies made a last minute push for a bill to decriminalize the public possession of small amounts of marijuana, saying current laws unfairly target young black and Latino men.

Assemblyman Karim Camara, who chairs the caucus, says the bill to decriminalize public possession of small amounts of marijuana is needed partly to fix an ongoing problem with the New York City Police Department’s Stop and Frisk policy. He and other supporters gathered outside the Senate chamber to call for a vote.  

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9:01am

Fri June 14, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's abortion rights bill to be amended

Women’s groups have agreed to amend abortion rights language in a women’s equality bill to clarify that the late-term abortion procedure known as partial birth abortion will continue to be illegal in New York.

Several Republican senators said they couldn’t support a proposal to codify into New York state law the abortion rights afforded to women in the federal Roe v. Wade decision. They said they feared it would promote late term abortions, including partial birth abortion, which are currently illegal in the U.S.

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8:58am

Thu June 13, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo campaigns across state for agenda with one week to go in legislative session

It’s getting down to the wire for major pieces of legislation as the end of session approaches in Albany, including women’s rights and campaign finance reform. There are no agreements yet, but that’s not unusual in a government that operates on last-minute deals.

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6:04am

Wed June 12, 2013
Politics

With just days left, Cuomo rolls out campaign finance reform bill

With just over a week left in the legislative session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his bill to extend public financing of political campaigns to statewide races. But he still faces resistance from some factions in the legislature.

Cuomo’s talked of his support for a public campaign finance system for statewide races based on the New York City model, but this is the first time that he’s revealed the details of the actual legislation.

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11:37am

Tue June 11, 2013
Politics

DeFrancisco: Cuomo's abortion rights provision a "non-starter"

State Sen. John DeFrancisco says the governor's abortion rights provision is a "non-starter."
Durrie Lawrence WRVO

A top Senate Republican says Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s abortion rights provision in a women’s equality bill stands little chance of passage in the chamber.

Senate Finance Committee Chair John DeFrancisco, from Syracuse, is one of the leading members of the Senate GOP conference. He says it’s unlikely that his house will pass Governor Cuomo’s proposal to codify into New York law the abortion rights in the federal Roe v. Wade decision.

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6:01am

Tue June 11, 2013

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