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 New York State Legislature returns to the Capitol next week, and tenants’ rights advocates are pushing for the passage of bills to cancel rent payments and offer other protections for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. They say without some relief, a massive housing and potential homelessness crisis looms.

Tenants’ rights groups protested Wednesday in the Bronx and via Zoom over what they fear is a looming housing crisis for tens of thousands of out-of-work New Yorkers struggling to pay rent. 

The New York State Board of Regents on Monday issued preliminary guidelines for schools to reopen as Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the final decision on reopening will be data-driven and based on the rate of infection in September and at any time during the upcoming school year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is tightening quarantine orders for of out-of-state travelers with high rates of COVID-19.

Cuomo says travelers from the 19 states now on the restricted list will be required to fill out a form that includes the address of where they will be for the mandatory 14-day quarantine, or there will be immediate repercussions.

“It will be enforced in every airport in the state of New York,” Cuomo said.

Law enforcement leaders and some Republicans in the New York State Legislature are pushing back against recent criminal justice reforms approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic-led Legislature. They say a recent uptick in violent crimes might mean the new laws went too far, and they would like to see the policies reversed.

Health insurance companies regulated by the state are waiting to hear back about their requests for 2021 rate changes for premium holders. The companies, like nearly every other industry, face many uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their requests vary widely.

The companies are asking the New York State Department of Financial Services for an average increase of 11.5%.  

A coalition of government reform groups say the New York State Legislature should consider limiting some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers gained during the pandemic and return, at least remotely, to meeting in session to set policy for the state.

In early March, as the coronavirus rapidly gained ground in New York, the Legislature granted Cuomo the powers to temporarily suspend laws or create new ones to fight the pandemic.

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker issued a report Monday on the likely cause of deaths from COVID-19 in New York’s nursing homes that he said shows the virus came in through infected staff, not through hospital readmissions.

The study comes as Governor Andrew Cuomo canceled the state fair and said he could not guarantee that schools will reopen in the fall.

Cuomo has been criticized for a March 25 directive that required nursing homes to accept residents with COVID-19 back from hospitals.

New rules regarding who can be held on bail in New York state took effect Thursday.

The new law rolls back some bail reform measures passed in 2019, and criminal justice advocates say it’s the wrong time to do it, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The state’s ongoing fiscal crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to temporary funding reductions for some cities and postponed planned pay raises for state workers. It’s also led to reductions to some smaller programs, including a key organization that has helped New Yorkers with intellectual disabilities navigate the pandemic. The program is slated for significant cuts this month.   

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is adding eight more states to a travel advisory list for states with high levels of the coronavirus. Visitors from California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee will now be required to self-quarantine for two weeks.

The new restrictions bring the total number of states included in the travel advisory to 16. New Yorkers who travel to those states will have to self-quarantine when they return.

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