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.

Democrats in the State Assembly say they plan to move ahead with a bill to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in New York. But the Assembly speaker said he wants to educate people about the benefits of the measure first.

Speaker Carl Heastie said Democrats, who are in the majority in his house, have the votes to pass what’s known as the Green Light Bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a standard driver’s license.

“We are supportive of moving the driver’s licenses for all (legislation),” Heastie said.

A bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in New York is gaining support in the state Legislature. But there’s also a growing backlash, and several upstate county sheriffs, county clerks and state lawmakers are explaining why they oppose the measure.


As Earth Day was celebrated Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that bans single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and other retail shops in New York state.

Cuomo, crumpling a plastic bag in his hand for effect, said the bags “look harmless enough” but are actually dangerous to the environment -- and New Yorkers use 23 billion of them a year. They end up in landfills and on the street. Cuomo, an avid deep-sea fisherman, said they also clog up the waterways.

State education officials canceled computerized testing for New York’s third- through eighth-grade students on Wednesday after a software glitch prevented some students from being able to complete -- and in some cases, even begin -- the tests.

But they said they’ll be able to restart the tests on Thursday.

A commission to examine a public campaign finance system for statewide elections in New York may also look at whether to continue the state’s practice of what’s known as fusion voting.

The practice allows more than one political party to support the same candidate on the ballot, a practice that resulted in the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor appearing on six different ballot lines in 2018.

But the proposed change has members on the left and the right of the mainstream political parties concerned. 


The New York State Legislature completed work on the state budget around 7:30 a.m. Monday, after pulling an all-night session to complete  the  budget relatively on time. The spending plan represents a compromise where not everyone is completely happy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pleased with the results of the spending plan.

“This is probably the broadest, most sweeping state plan that we have done,” Cuomo said. “There are a number of national firsts.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, in remarks early Monday, had a diffrent asessment.

With less than a week to go to the budget deadline, Governor Andrew Cuomo says talks are proceeding in “good faith” with the legislature, but he says many differences still remain. And he indicated that lingering resentments over the failed Amazon deal might be coloring the discussions. 

Gambling casino companies are pressing Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature to allow them to open gaming centers in New York City as part of the new state budget. There are a number of obstacles to overcome, but the proposal may seem tempting to lawmakers, who are strapped for cash this year.

The chance to include legalization of adult recreational marijuana in the state budget is fading, now that Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to be backing away from the proposal.

A push to enact a statewide system of public campaign finance for political races appears to be floundering in New York. But advocates have not given up on a proposal that they say would change the culture of a state capitol where many lawmakers have grown dependent on donations from special interest groups.

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