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.

  

Republican state lawmakers will be holding roundtable forums around the state to discuss the fallout from the state's newly enacted criminal justice reforms that ended most forms of cash bail for nonviolent crimes.

The changes to the bail system have led to a backlash among police and prosecutors, who cite examples of defendants with multiple criminal convictions being freed on their own recognizance.

  

Backers of legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana in New York rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday, but some key differences among lawmakers might hold up passage. 

The rally was organized by advocacy groups, including the Drug Policy Alliance and chapters of the New York Civil Liberties Union. They said momentum is growing in 2020 to enact a law to allow adult New Yorkers to buy cannabis for recreational use.

The groups also said the plan needs to include funding for communities that suffered disproportionately during marijuana prohibition.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a $178.6 billion budget proposal Tuesday. In it, he detailed plans of how to deal with a $6 billion budget deficit largely caused by increased costs for Medicaid, as well as plans to legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis in New York.

The costs of Medicaid have been rising, partly due to more people receiving health care through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and increases in the state’s minimum wage, which has led to higher labor costs.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is announcing that an additional $10 million will be in his new state budget to help with the 2020 national census and to make sure that as many New Yorkers as possible are counted. 

And he’s announced three celebrity chairs of his census commission: Martin Luther King III, "Hamilton" creator and star Lin Manuel Miranda and actor Lucy Liu.  

Cuomo said the additional money will be used to target traditionally hard-to-count populations, including immigrants.

A report by the state Comptroller finds that New York ranks number one in being shortchanged in tax money from the federal government.

A report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli finds New Yorkers gave $26.6 billion more dollars in tax money in 2018 to the federal government than they got back, ranking it 50th among the 50 states.

“We are part of a very small number of states that are net donors to the federal government,” said Di Napoli who said New York’s congressional delegation should push the issue during budget negotiations.

Democrats who lead the state Senate approved several measures on Thursday to make it easier to vote. But a newly energized Republican minority wanted to talk about other topics, such as worries about undocumented immigrants voting and whether to repeal recently enacted bail reform measures.

On the second day of the legislative session, the Senate lost no time in acting on a number of bills to allow more voter participation. 

There was a somber tone to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10th State of the State message in a year where the state is facing a $6 billion deficit and reeling from a recent spate of hate crimes, including a stabbing incident at a rabbi’s house outside New York City.

“It is going to be a challenging year,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

Cuomo said recent events have been frightening, including an earthquake in Puerto Rico, deep and bitter political divides, and the attack on Orthodox Jews celebrating Hanukkah that injured five, one severely.

The minority party Republicans in the state Assembly have a new leader.

Will Barclay from the Syracuse area replaces Brian Kolb, who resigned after being charged with drunken driving on New Year’s Eve.

GOP members, who hold less than one-third of the total seats in the Assembly, spent less than an hour in a closed-door meeting to elect Barclay as their new leader.

Among some top state Democrats, there are some cracks in the support for criminal justice reforms in 2020 that have eliminated most forms of cash bail. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's attorney general are among those now saying they are open to making some changes. 

Over the New Year’s holiday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s health care providers will see a 1% drop in the reimbursements they receive for the government-funded Medicaid health care program.

It’s part of an effort to reduce a multi-billion-dollar budget gap that the state is facing.

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