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.

State officials are reacting to the news that the federal Department of Homeland Security is ending an expedited travel pass known as Global Entry for New Yorkers crossing into Canada or Mexico or arriving home to an airport from a foreign country.  

Global Entry, part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to get expedited clearance through automatic kiosks at select airports upon arrival into the United States.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a commission to look at improving conditions for workers in the so-called gig economy, where people work job to job with few employment rights.

But some workers say they are worried that the changes could actually harm their ability to earn money. 

Joshua McFee is a professional wrestler. His ambition is to be signed with a major television company and make it big.

“And then that’s your living,” McFee said.

The fight over recently enacted bail reform heated up at the Capitol on Tuesday, with dueling events by police and activists that at times centered on charges of racism surrounding a Facebook page that calls for the law to be repealed.

Republican lawmakers and law enforcement groups went first. Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan was joined by hundreds of police in blue uniforms, lined up in rows on the pink sandstone steps of the State Capitol’s grand staircase.

A bill in the state Legislature to ban the sale of some animals, including puppies and kittens, at pet stores is gaining support.

Backers say it’s a way to put the notorious puppy mills out of business. But some independent pet store owners say they are being unfairly punished for the unethical practices of others.

The ban on single-use plastic bags at supermarkets and other shops takes effect in just over a month. Supporters say the state’s environmental agency has not done enough to prepare the public for the shift. 

After March 1, New Yorkers will need to get into the habit of bringing reusable bags with them to the grocery store and to other retailers like Target and Walmart. 

  

Republican state lawmakers will be holding roundtable forums around the state to discuss the fallout from the state's newly enacted criminal justice reforms that ended most forms of cash bail for nonviolent crimes.

The changes to the bail system have led to a backlash among police and prosecutors, who cite examples of defendants with multiple criminal convictions being freed on their own recognizance.

  

Backers of legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana in New York rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday, but some key differences among lawmakers might hold up passage. 

The rally was organized by advocacy groups, including the Drug Policy Alliance and chapters of the New York Civil Liberties Union. They said momentum is growing in 2020 to enact a law to allow adult New Yorkers to buy cannabis for recreational use.

The groups also said the plan needs to include funding for communities that suffered disproportionately during marijuana prohibition.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a $178.6 billion budget proposal Tuesday. In it, he detailed plans of how to deal with a $6 billion budget deficit largely caused by increased costs for Medicaid, as well as plans to legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis in New York.

The costs of Medicaid have been rising, partly due to more people receiving health care through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and increases in the state’s minimum wage, which has led to higher labor costs.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is announcing that an additional $10 million will be in his new state budget to help with the 2020 national census and to make sure that as many New Yorkers as possible are counted. 

And he’s announced three celebrity chairs of his census commission: Martin Luther King III, "Hamilton" creator and star Lin Manuel Miranda and actor Lucy Liu.  

Cuomo said the additional money will be used to target traditionally hard-to-count populations, including immigrants.

A report by the state Comptroller finds that New York ranks number one in being shortchanged in tax money from the federal government.

A report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli finds New Yorkers gave $26.6 billion more dollars in tax money in 2018 to the federal government than they got back, ranking it 50th among the 50 states.

“We are part of a very small number of states that are net donors to the federal government,” said Di Napoli who said New York’s congressional delegation should push the issue during budget negotiations.

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