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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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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10:21am

Tue October 15, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo setting the stage for tax cuts

Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems to be setting the stage for a tax cut next year. Recently, he’s appointed a new commission to look at cutting property and other taxes, and has said the state may have a budget surplus to pay for them.

The governor announced a new tax policy commission headed by former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, and former state Comptroller Carl McCall, a Democrat. Both are past political rivals of Cuomo.

Cuomo charged the new panel with finding a way to cut taxes.

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8:50am

Mon October 14, 2013
Politics and Government

Judge will rule on casino amendment challenge

ChrisYunker via Flickr

A state Supreme Court judge heard arguments Friday in regards to whether the state Board of Elections should change the wording of a casino gambling amendment that critics say improperly advocates for the measure’s passage.

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6:46am

Fri October 11, 2013
Politics and Government

Coalition promotes casino amendment, as judge set to hear lawsuit

The push for passage of a ballot amendment to allow up to seven new gambling casinos in New York has begun. A coalition of business leaders, labor unions, and local elected officials are holding press conferences across the state. They expect to run some TV ads, as well.

The name of the coalition says nothing about gambling casinos -- instead it’s called New York Jobs Now. Business Council President Heather Briccetti said the new resort-style casinos proposed will bring employment to economically depressed areas.

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7:46am

Thu October 10, 2013
Politics and Government

Key assemblymember on fracking panel calls for health study do-over

WBFO

A Binghamton assemblywoman on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's hydrofracking advisory panel is asking for a do-over of an ongoing heath review, saying the secretive process has compromised public confidence.

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5:00pm

Wed October 9, 2013
Politics and Government

Senate IDC leader slammed by environmental group

An environmental group has given Senate Independent Democratic Leader Jeff Klein its 2013 "Oil Slick Award," claiming the Senate co-leader has done more than any other state legislator to harm the environment.

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7:50am

Wed October 9, 2013
Politics and Government

Is Cuomo's corruption commission going off the rails?

News reports in recent days portray Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission on corruption as possibly going off the rails. Government reform groups say they are concerned and want some answers.

Cuomo appointed the Moreland Act Commission at the close of a legislative session that saw numerous lawmakers arrested, indicted and jailed for corruption, and with no agreement on any reform measures. Cuomo said at the time that he wanted wrongdoers punished, and commission co-chair, Syracuse area District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, described how that would be accomplished.

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7:51am

Thu October 3, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo looks to former rivals to head tax cutting commission

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is appointing a new tax cutting commission that he has charged with finding ways of slicing state revenues by $2 to $3 billion next year.

Cuomo turned to the man who beat his father in the 1994 governor’s race, George Pataki, to co-chair the commission. Pataki, a Republican, defeated Mario Cuomo on a platform that included tax cuts.

Pataki, who says the state spends too much and costs too much, says he’s happy to serve on the commission, but at first thought a mistake had been made.

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7:29am

Wed October 2, 2013
Agriculture

Farm Bill expiration worries New York's farmers

Doug Kerr Flickr

While the focus has been on the partial federal government shut down, another important piece of legislation, the federal farm bill, has also expired.

New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said this is the third time in three years he’s seen negotiations go down to the wire and beyond on farm legislation that regulates crop subsidies, milk prices, and nutrition programs.

"It’s like déjà vu all over again," Norton said in a statement.

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4:14pm

Mon September 30, 2013
Politics and Government

Poll finds support for pro-gambling language in ballot amendment

ChrisYunker via Flickr

A new poll finds language on a referendum on New York state's November ballot to portray the expansion of casino gambling in a positive light is working, and gaining support among potential voters.  

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7:49am

Mon September 30, 2013
Politics and Government

Opposition to gambling amendment heats up

Another anti-gambling group has released a study debunking Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature’s claims about the benefits of permitting more casino gambling in New York.  So far opponents have been more vocal than supporters about the November 5 ballot referendum.

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6:48am

Fri September 27, 2013
Politics and Government

State's Capital Plan needs more detail, says watchdog group

A budget watchdog group says New York’s new 10 year plan of how it will spend more than $174 billion in road, bridge and numerous other projects lacks transparency and needs more details on how it will all be paid for.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, for the first time, has compiled a list of all the state improvement projects anticipated for the next 10 years, for a total estimated cost of $174.4 billion.

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7:53am

Wed September 25, 2013
Politics and Government

Moreland hearing focuses on more alleged corruption

The second public hearing held by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s commission to probe public corruption featured testimony from long time government reform groups. Many brought more evidence that they say shows potential corruption involving money and politics.

Protesters outside the hearing were advocating for public campaign finance reform, chanting “money out, voters in,” and displaying a wall of shame, featuring pictures and likenesses of dozens of politicians who’ve been indicted, arrested, convicted or jailed in recent years.

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7:49am

Tue September 24, 2013
Politics and Government

Thruway will offer more places to pull over and text

Zack Seward WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state Thruway will offer more places to pull over and answer text messages or make cell phone calls, in an effort to prevent texting while driving incidents.

The New York state Thruway will now have 91 official sites designated as texting and calling areas, to reduce texting while driving. The governor, speaking at the New Baltimore rest stop on the Thruway just south of Albany, says statistics show distracted driving has now become more deadly than drunk driving. He says one out of five accidents today are attributed to distracted driving.

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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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