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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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

7:12am

Mon June 10, 2013
Politics

Cuomo faces challenges in third legislative term

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's poll numbers have slid as his first term has hits some bumps.
Zack Seward WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces perhaps his biggest challenge yet as the end of his third legislative session rapidly approaches. His poll numbers are falling, and his agenda is in danger.

When Cuomo began the session, back in early January, his poll numbers were soaring. His approval rating, following a fall that was spent cleaning up the damage from Hurricane Sandy, was at an almost unheard of 74 percent. A confident Cuomo embarked on an ambitious progressive leaning agenda.

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9:06am

Thu June 6, 2013
Politics and Government

Silver, Cuomo slide in new poll

A new poll finds a slim majority of voters think Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver should step down from his leadership post, following two reports that were critical of his handling of a sexual harassment case.

Assemblyman Vito Lopez has already resigned and is facing record fines for allegedly sexually harassing four women on his staff. Speaker Silver was criticized in an ethics report and a report by the Staten Island District Attorney for initially mishandling the accusations. Silver has apologized.

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8:19am

Thu June 6, 2013
Casinos

Cuomo deals his bill for upstate New York casinos

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to place three Las Vegas-style casinos in upstate New York.
ChrisYunker via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a bill to authorize three new gambling casinos in upstate New York, if the legislature agrees to his plan and voters approve it in the fall.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has been pushing the plan for upstate casinos as an economic development tool for several months now. The constitutional amendment needed, which has already received partial passage, calls for seven casinos. Cuomo wants just three destination gambling centers for now.

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5:38am

Wed June 5, 2013
Politics and Government

After weeks of waiting, Cuomo releases women's equality bill

Actress Cynthia Nixon addresses a Women's Equality Act rally at the state Capitol Tuesday
Karen DeWitt WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is finally releasing legislation for his 10-point women’s agenda. It includes a provision to codify the abortion rights in the federal Roe v. Wade decision into New York state law. The governor says he’s been offered no assurances that it will pass the legislature.

Hundreds of women from a long list of women’s groups came to the Capitol for rally featuring actor Cynthia Nixon, among others. The governor’s plan includes a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment, equal pay provisions, and greater protections for victims of domestic violence and women forced into sex trafficking.

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5:33am

Tue June 4, 2013
Politics and Government

Public campaign financing, abortion, tax free zones top end-of-session list

This audio is pending

There’s three weeks to go in the legislative session, and advocates are pushing hard for two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda items -- translating the federal abortion rights in the Roe v. Wade decision into New York state law, and enacting public financing of statewide political campaigns.

The governor, meanwhile, is focusing on his proposal to bring tax free zones to upstate public college campuses.

Advocates for public financing of campaigns and advocates of abortion rights are entering the final push for passage of the measures, and are using a variety of tactics to spur action in the state Senate.

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8:59am

Mon June 3, 2013
Health

Anti-cancer groups want candy-flavored cigars banned

This audio is pending

Anti-cancer groups are seeking to ban the sale of fruit and chocolate flavored cigars in New York state that they say are target to children.

The products include chocolate, strawberry and grape flavored cigars, which sell for under a dollar at common convenience stores. Also available on line are gummy bear and cookie dough flavored chewing tobacco and other related products.

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8:49am

Fri May 31, 2013
Politics and Government

Ad war starts over Cuomo's tax free zone plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been traveling the state, promoting his plan to create tax free business zones at college campuses. He’s also running ads, paid for by the New York State Democratic Party. Now, one of the state’s largest unions is countering that effort with its own message.

Cuomo has gathered local government leaders and business groups to the Capitol to demonstrate support for his idea to create the tax free zones at public colleges, some private universities and some state-owned properties.

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9:12am

Thu May 30, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says tax free zones proposal not distracting him from other key priorities

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says many of his key agenda items are still in play in the legislature, even though he’s been spending most of his time lately promoting tax free business zones at some state college campuses.

Cuomo held his sixth event in a week to highlight a plan to create tax free business zones at public and private colleges, as well as on some state owned properties. But he insists he’s still actively pursuing his other end of session priorities -- including public financing of political campaigns, a women’s equality act, the siting of three upstate casinos, and a board to help distressed upstate cities.

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9:06am

Thu May 30, 2013
Politics and Government

Hundreds rally for stalled public campaign finance bill

Fair elections rally at the Capitol in Albany Wednesday
Karen DeWitt/WRVO

Hundreds gathered at the state Capitol to rally for public financing of political campaigns. The measure remains in limbo in the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces questions on whether he’s working hard enough for the proposal to pass.

They came in buses from all over New York to give state lawmakers their message -- big money is corrupting politics. They say the state should adopt New York City’s public campaign finance system, which allows candidates to match every dollar they collect in small donations with seven dollars of government funds.

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8:59am

Wed May 29, 2013
Politics and Government

Questions over what will get done in last four weeks of session

The steady drumbeat of scandal after scandal in the New York State Legislature has led many to wonder whether lawmakers can focus on passing any major bills by the end of the session, which is fast approaching.

The legislature returns Wednesday and has just four work weeks to act on items ranging from campaign finance reform to abortion rights, to economic development plans.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, before the legislature even returned from its Memorial Day break, gathered local government leaders from across the state to ask for help in passing a plan to create tax free zones for new businesses at college campuses.

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8:51am

Wed May 29, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo seeks help from local leaders to pass tax free zone plan

governorandrewcuomo Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked local government leaders from around upstate New York help him convince the legislature to approve his tax free zone plan.
 
Cuomo wants to create tax free zones for new businesses who locate at state-run and some private college campuses around the state. All taxes, even for employees, would be waved for a decade. The governor says he may even increase the plan to 20 other state-run sites.

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5:41pm

Tue May 28, 2013
Politics and Government

NY state Sen. Savino explains IDC governing strategy

A key member of the New York State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference says the group does not foresee joining with the rest of the Democrats to overcome Republican resistance to a number of end-of-session issues, including public financing of campaigns.
 

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5:53am

Tue May 28, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo's 'Tax-Free Zones' proposal draws mixed reviews

Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his stop in Syracuse to promote his tax free zones.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been traveling the state promoting a plan to allow new businesses to go tax-free for up to a decade if they locate near a State University of New York campus.  The plan, which is yet to be drafted into bill form, has raised some questions.

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5:34am

Wed May 22, 2013
Politics and Government

NY State Assembly Speaker Silver moves on from Lopez controversy

One day after the state’s powerful Assembly speaker admitted “glaring failures” in his handling of a sexual abuse case, the Albany establishment seemed to be moving on, with the usual round of press conferences, bill passage, and leaders meetings.

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9:09am

Mon May 20, 2013
Education

Most school budgets expected to pass

Voters in New York state go to the polls Tuesday to approve new school budgets. The New York State School Boards Association finds that many school districts are living within the limits imposed by a property tax cap enacted two years ago.

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9:09am

Fri May 17, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo says Lopez should be expelled, stops short of criticizing Speaker Silver

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the subject of a scathing ethics commission report on sexual harassment, to resign from office or be expelled.

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8:58am

Thu May 16, 2013
Politics and Government

Lopez report details disturbing allegations of sexual harassment

The Legislative Ethics Commission released its report on the sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez.  It’s conclusions have New York City’s National Organization for Women calling for a vote of no confidence against the still-serving assemblyman, and the Republicans calling for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign.

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8:55am

Wed May 15, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo details local government bailout plan

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his proposal for a new local government restructuring board to help financially distressed communities deal with long term budget problems.

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9:12am

Tue May 14, 2013
Politics and Government

State lawmakers carry on in face of scandal

Lawmakers in Albany tried to continue business as usual in the wake of one of the worst scandals in recent decades, that has overshadowed most other news coming out of the Capitol. Much of this week’s legislative session has been canceled, but politicians who were in town insisted that their agendas are not being derailed.

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9:05am

Fri May 10, 2013
Politics and Government

Cuomo details his plan for upstate casinos

The Seneca Niagara Casino is one of three casinos from which Indian nations are withholding revenues earmarked for local governments.
Daniel Robison/Innovation Trail

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined the details of his plan to site three gambling casinos upstate Thursday. Cuomo, joined by union and business leaders, and representatives from county governments, offered more details of his plan to build three new gambling casinos. Cuomo says he wants to limit the locations to upstate regions for now, to prop up the failing economy. The governor says upstate needs jobs like it needs oxygen. And he says having a downstate location would devalue the upstate centers.

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1:38am

Thu May 9, 2013
Politics and Government

Names of officials secretly recorded released

Nine more names of state Senators and others potentially involved in corruption were made public Wednesday, when a judge ordered prosecutors in the case of convicted former Sen. Shirley Huntley to make public the names of her colleagues that she secretly recorded.

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9:03am

Wed May 8, 2013
Politics and Government

Controversy over access overshadows state Senate hearing

A hearing by state Senate Republicans on New York City’s public campaign financing system was overshadowed by protests, as government reform groups and other members of the public were denied entry, and noisy protests ensued.

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8:44am

Tue May 7, 2013
Politics and Government

Another state senator arrested

Former NY State Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson
File photo/Karen DeWitt/WRVO

Former Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson turned himself in to federal authorities Monday, after being accused in a nine-count indictment of embezzling nearly half a million dollars from mortgage foreclosure accounts, and then trying to cover it up.

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9:10am

Mon May 6, 2013
Politics and Government

Senate leader says he won't repeat mistakes made when passing gun control laws

The leader of the New York State Senate Republicans says he regrets the way gun control legislation was rapidly approved earlier this year, and he hopes what he now says was a mistake won't be repeated at the end of the session.

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8:57am

Mon May 6, 2013
Politics and Government

Senate GOP hearings will examine NYC's public campaign financing system

Republicans in the New York State Senate plan to hold hearings Tuesday, May 7, on what they say are abuses in New York City’s public campaign finance system. 

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5:48am

Fri May 3, 2013
Gambling

Lawmakers consider delaying vote on allowing casinos

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to bring three casinos to upstate New York.
ChrisYunker via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have tried to jump start negotiations over siting several new gambling casinos in New York. But they also conceded that the plans might be delayed for another year.

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