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.

The declining New York State Senate Republican conference could get even smaller after three senators announced that they are not running for re-election in 2020 -- and more exits are expected in the coming weeks. 

For nearly all of the past century, with a few brief breaks, Republicans ruled the Senate. Then, in 2018, they lost a number of seats to give Democrats a decisive 40-seat majority out of the 63 districts.

  

New York state is facing the largest budget gap in several years. The $6 billion deficit is due largely to higher costs for Medicaid, the health care insurance program for low-income people.

New York is facing a looming budget deficit because of rising costs and spending on health care in the state’s Medicaid program. It’s increasingly likely that the state will resort to what critics say is a fiscal “gimmick” to keep the rest of this year's and next year’s spending plans in balance.

Some members of a commission that’s creating the rules for a public campaign finance system for state elected offices are concerned that the plans being developed would be too favorable to incumbent politicians.

Members of the Fair Elections Coalition, a public campaign finance advocacy group, briefly disrupted the meeting to express their displeasure with the commission’s actions. 

“Big money out,” they shouted as the commissioner watched.

A new state law that takes effect in January will give people accused of crimes more tools to mount a defense in court. But the state’s District Attorneys say changes to what’s known as the discovery laws will be costly and hard to implement.

Under current law, defendants don’t have a right to see a prosecutor’s evidence against them until the trail begins. This includes police reports, recordings, or results of DNA tests - evidence that, in some cases, defendants may not see for months or even years.

State health department officials, testifying at a Senate hearing, say they still don’t know the exact cause of the vaping related respiratory illness that has sickened over 1,800 across the nation including 156 New Yorkers, and caused 38 deaths.

The USDA released long-awaited regulations on CBD this week that will provide more federal regulation of the growing of hemp plants, where CBD comes from.

Meanwhile, in New York, a bill that would regulate CBD is in limbo. The State Legislature has approved it, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn’t acted on it yet. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “good riddance” to the news that President Donald Trump is changing his official residence from New York to Florida.

Cuomo said he believes Trump is changing his state of residence to avoid New York prosecutors’ requests for the president’s taxes, which he has never released publicly. 

“I think his lawyers think this will help his legal case,” said Cuomo. “Where he can now say, ‘Well, New York doesn’t have right to my taxes, I’m no longer a resident of New York.’ ” 

The chair of the state’s Democratic Party found himself on the defensive after a leaked email revealed a proposal that could weaken minor parties backed by progressive Democrats and strengthen the state’s Conservative Party.

Two majority-party state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would give customers in cafes, fast-food shops and even some restaurants the option to use their own container for coffee or water, or to bring home leftovers.

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy and Sen. Jen Metzger, both Democrats, chose 3Fish Coffee, a local coffee shop in Albany, to talk about the legislation they’ve dubbed the “right to refill” bill.

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