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.

Over the weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a package of voting reforms, including ones that ease the rules and restrictions on mail-in absentee balloting.

But a leading voter access advocate said the state still has more to do before mail-in balloting is universally accessible.

The bills that Cuomo approved include eliminating the requirement that voters have to submit signed applications for absentee ballots. They will now be able to request the ballots by an unsigned letter or by going online to get one mailed to them.

After a recent AARP survey found that nearly 80% of New York’s 2.5 million unpaid family caregivers spend a significant amount of their own money to care for a loved one, the organization is pushing for federal and state tax credits to help ease that growing burden.

The chair of the state Senate Ethics Committee said even though hearings to fix New York’s dysfunctional ethics panel have been delayed, she’s hopeful that solutions can be reached by the end of the summer.

Sen. Alessandra Biaggi this week canceled a planned hearing that was to feature testimony from the executive director of the troubled Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE. Concerns about whether the hearing was adhering to the state’s Open Meetings Law led to the postponement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday defended the state’s death count during the COVID-19 pandemic after a report by the Associated Press that said New York may have undercounted the number of deaths from the disease by as many as 11,000 people.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a unity event Wednesday with Eric Adams, the winner of the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, where they announced plans to work to combat rising gun violence.

Cuomo -- who has bitterly feuded with current Mayor Bill de Blasio, a former ally -- said things will be different if Adams, as expected, wins the general election in November.

“I pledge today to work in full partnership with him,” Cuomo said, adding that Adams displays “courage and competence.”

“I am so excited about Eric Adams,” he said.

The commission tasked with drawing new district lines for the state’s congressional and state legislative seats will hold nine public hearings, which they describe as a virtual listening tour to involve the public in how the districts should be structured.

Commission members say the public hearings, all to be held over Zoom, will allow communities to have a voice on how they want the new Senate, Assembly and congressional districts to be designed.  

A New York State Senate hearing scheduled to examine the troubled state ethics commission was postponed Monday over concerns that it might have been in violation of the Open Meetings Law because too many senators were participating over Zoom instead of showing up in person.  

The hearing was to feature senators grilling the chair of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, a panel that critics say is overly influenced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But after an hour’s delay, Senate Ethics Committee Chair Alessandra Biaggi postponed it. 

Calling them “villains for the history books,” the attorneys general of New York, Massachusetts and Minnesota on Thursday announced a $4.5 billion settlement with the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the drug OxyContin that contributed to the nation’s opioid addiction crisis.

A bill that would require New York state to create a lockbox for funds from future opioid drug manufacturer settlements is now at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The measure, which has bipartisan support and the backing of state Attorney General Letitia James, would change Cuomo’s practice of placing the money into the state’s general budget fund.

A fiscal watchdog group is using the Freedom of Information Law to try to get New York state’s health department to release more detailed data on the over 42,000 New Yorkers who died during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A previous FOIL request by the group, the Empire Center, was one of the factors that led Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration to disclose it had underestimated by half the number of nursing home residents who died in the pandemic.