WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Karen DeWitt

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.

  

Teachers wouldn’t be evaluated based on their students’ standardized test scores any longer under a measure approved by the New York State Assembly.

It’s a reversal of a controversial policy that helped lead to a widespread boycott of the third- through eighth-grade tests associated with the former Common Core program.

But the measure faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

The newly reunited Senate Democrats held their first press conference, where they focused on what they said was their No. 1 priority — a package of bills making it easier to vote.

Senate Democrats conducted a survey of eligible voters in New York on their voting patterns. Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said it confirms what she already knew: New York’s voter participation rate is abysmal. The state ranks 41st of all 50 states in the 2016 elections, with a voting rate of 57 percent.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the Assembly will take up a bill Wednesday to decouple the results of standardized student test scores from teacher evaluations.

There has been growing support in the state Legislature to reverse the controversial policy that eventually would have led to the test results being used to measure teacher performance.

There already is a moratorium on using the test results for teacher evaluations, after teachers and their unions objected to the idea.

Heastie said there are better ways to measure performance.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday that would temporarily take away the guns of people accused of domestic violence. 

Cuomo organized a signing ceremony that included a student from the Parkland, Florida, school where the Feb. 14 mass shooting occurred, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

The governor said taking guns away from domestic violence offenders helps to diffuse potentially deadly situations.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul says she plans to stay in the race for re-election alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo, despite remarks by the governor that Hochul might prefer to run for Congress instead.

Cuomo has said he’d support Hochul if she wanted to run for her previous seat in Congress, which is now held by western New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins.

But Hochul has made it clear that she does not want to run for that seat.

Andrew Cuomo has two main challengers in the governor’s race: Cynthia Nixon on the left and Marc Molinaro on the right.

Surprisingly, the two agree on a number of key items as they make their case against the incumbent governor, including a laser-like focus on Cuomo’s perceived weaknesses.

Challengers to Governor Cuomo were on the campaign trail Thursday, as the governor announced a massive new anti poverty program in Brooklyn. Democratic candidate Cynthia Nixon visited the Finger Lakes to voice her opposition to a controversial proposed liquefied natural gas plant on Seneca Lake.

The gas company Crestwood wants to store liquid propane gas in caverns created from salt mining along Seneca Lake. They are awaiting a decision from Governor Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

The New York State Senate met for the first time since two Democrats were successful in special elections held on Tuesday. Though the Senate now has 32 Democrats, the number required to form a majority- it was back to business as usual with the GOP in charge.

Senator Simcha Felder is the lone Democrat remaining with the Republican caucus, and giving the GOP the one seat needed to keep the majority in the chamber.

Two feuding factions of mainstream and independent democrats already reunited on April 5th.

Even before the results of two special elections Tuesday in the State Senate were decided, the lone Democratic Senator who caucuses with the Republicans says he’s sticking with the GOP. That means Democrats will likely not control the Senate any time this year.

Senator Simcha Felder said in a statement that, with only 25 days remaining in this year’s legislative session, he wants to do what’s best for his constituents.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a bill to ban plastic grocery bags in New York, but not everyone is praising him for it.

Cuomo’s plan would prohibit all single-use plastic carryout bags at any point of sale. But Peter Iwanowicz with Environmental Advocates says there are too many exceptions in the bill.

“In fact they’ve included a pretty significant loophole. By allowing retailers to claim their bags are recyclable or reusable that would really nullify their effectiveness.”

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