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.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will relinquish the emergency powers he’s held for the past 15 months during the COVID-19 pandemic as infection rates continue to drop and vaccination rates slowly climb.

Those powers gave Cuomo the power to close schools and businesses, require masks and social distancing, and regulate how many people could gather at one time, even in private homes.

“The emergency is over,” said Cuomo, who added that the state of emergency will end Thursday. “It will not be renewed.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he’s lifting all remaining state COVID-19 restrictions, including requirements for masks and social distancing, and capacity limits at events, now that New York has reached the governor’s goal of 70% of adults receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.

Cuomo, in a campaign style event held before a cheering crowd of union leaders and others at the World Trade Center, said the goal was reached sometime on Monday, according to numbers compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state is one-tenth of a percentage point away from his goal of having 70% of New Yorkers age 18 and over obtain at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.

Cuomo says Sunday’s vaccination numbers show the rate at 69.9%. But, he says, the percentages vary greatly by zip code, with rates in some low-income urban and rural areas as low as 38.8%. The governor says local governments need to focus on those areas and give it "one more push."

“Go door to door,” Cuomo said. “Go to churches, go to social events, go to community events.”

New York’s legislative session is drawing to a close, but without the usual frenzy of hallways crowded with lobbyists and protesters and few last minute backroom deals. For the second year in a row, the New York State Capitol has been off limits to visitors, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing multiple scandals, is largely isolated from the negotiations.  

COVID -19 pandemic restrictions have been lifted in New York in recent weeks, and sports stadiums, theaters, restaurants and bars are opening back up.

The 2021 New York legislative session is in its final hours, with many items yet to be resolved. Criminal justice reforms continue to dominate at the end of the session, just as they have for the past two years.

Here’s a look at what seems to be in, and what seems to be out.

A bill that would seal some criminal records for those convicted of misdemeanors and some felonies will be ready for a vote in the Senate and Assembly by the sessions’ final day.

An apparent deal has been reached between the New York State Senate and Assembly on several criminal justice measures, including the sealing of some criminal records to give convicts a second chance in life, and a measure to hold gun manufacturers legally liable for people who commit crimes with their guns.   

A rally to advocate for the Clean Slate measure turned into a cautious celebration of victory as word came of an agreement on a revised version of the measure between the Assembly and Senate.

The New York State Senate’s Judiciary Committee held — what was at times — a contentious confirmation hearing for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nominees to the state’s highest court.

Nominee Madeline Singas, the Nassau County district attorney, faced some tough questions from senators on the left and right. In the end, Singas and the governor’s other judicial appointees, won approval in the Senate. 

After a weekend of confusion for schoolchildren, their parents and teachers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo clarified changes in mask policy for schools in New York on Monday. He said children don’t have to wear masks outside, but do have to wear them inside.

Actor and 2018 candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon was among advocates for single-payer health care who rallied Monday at the State Capitol. They are urging lawmakers to approve the New York Health Act before the session ends.

The legislation, which is sponsored by the Health Committee chairs in both houses of the Legislature, has enough support among Democrats to pass. But it’s uncertain whether the measure will get a vote before the session ends.

As the New York State Legislature’s session draws to a close, lawmakers are considering several criminal justice changes, including what’s known as the Clean Slate legislation. It would expunge some criminal records for those who have already served their time in prison.