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 governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut made the joint decision to close all bars and restaurants in those states beginning at 8 p.m. Monday to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said all schools in New York state will be closed as of the end of Monday, and the New York State Legislature has postponed its session.

The state Legislature postponed its session until at least Wednesday to figure out how to conduct its business safely under new regulations released by the Centers for Disease Control regarding human density in light of the spreading novel coronavirus.

Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the first African American woman to serve as Assembly majority leader, is the prime sponsor in her house of a bill to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in New York.

In an interview for public radio and television with WXXI's Karen DeWitt, the Buffalo Democrat said the decades-long prohibition of cannabis had a detrimental effect on communities like the one she represents, and she wants the measure to funnel some of the revenue from the sale of the drug back to those communities.

  

The leader of the New York State Senate said it's likely that changes will soon be made to the state's new bail reform laws, which end most forms of cash bail for nonviolent offenses.

Meanwhile, the state's chief judge also called for amendments to the laws.

Since the law took effect on Jan. 1, law enforcement groups have highlighted select cases of repeat offenders going free under the new rules. Some Democratic senators in more conservative districts have expressed concerns.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he's asking the state Legislature for $40 million in emergency spending to help the state combat the coronavirus.  

The governor said there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in New York so far. Twenty-seven people have been tested, and 26 of those results have been negative. One case is still pending. 

Cuomo said no one should be surprised, though, if it happens.

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. 

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