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.

With support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and many members of the state legislature, 2020 could be the year when New York legalizes the adult use of recreational marijuana.

But the issue has become complicated by a widespread lung ailment linked to vaping. 

A measure to legalize cannabis for adults was proposed in 2019, as part of the state budget. It did not make it into the final spending plan, and it failed to win enough support to pass as a standalone bill in the state Senate.

Republican State Sen. Rich Funke announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to the 55th State Senate District.

Funke made the announcement on YouTube, saying he wanted to decide when it was time to leave office.

"I also believe in term limits, so I will end my time in elected office next year on my own terms," Funke said in a YouTube video released Tuesday morning.

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.’ ” 

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