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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7:20am

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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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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