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.

This week, the state’s Democratic Party leaders acted to greatly shorten the lead time when voters can register to cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential primaries.

Under current laws, voters in New York must register in a political party more than six months before the primary vote is held. Party registration can only be changed 25 days or more before a general election, held in November. The presidential primaries are not held until the following April.

The New York State Legislature took final action on measures that could be used against President Donald Trump and his associates, including a backdoor way for Congress to view the president’s tax returns.

The first bill would authorize the state tax department to release the tax returns of Trump and other elected officials and high-ranking political appointees who live in New York to some congressional committees conducting inquiries.

There’s going to be a change at the top in the state’s Republican Party.

Erie County GOP Chair Nick Langworthy has gathered the support of the majority of county chairs and will be replacing Ed Cox in July. The two met with the media Tuesday to talk about the transition.

On the surface, it is an amicable change of leadership.

Cox, who oversaw the party for the past 10 years and is the son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon, said he’s pleased with his new position as part of a team to help finance President Donald Trump’s re-election effort.

Advocates for a bill that would allow terminally ill New Yorkers to end their own lives say the legislation has its best chance yet for passage in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature.

The bill would permit physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of pills to patients who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and who ask for the drugs. 

Two bills that challenge President Donald Trump and his policies are advancing in the New York State Assembly.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Democrats in his house are ready to act on a measure to amend New York’s double jeopardy laws. It would give state prosecutors the right to pursue cases against potential crimes committed in New York, even if the person is pardoned by the president.  

“There’s enough support to pass double jeopardy,” Heastie told reporters Tuesday. “It will be on the agenda next week.”

Opponents of bills to decriminalize prostitution in New York say it will only strengthen the worldwide sex trafficking industry and increase incidents of abuse in New York. Anti-sex trafficking groups and their allies spoke out at the state Capitol. 

Attorney Dorchen Leidholdt has represented hundreds of women who were abused by domestic violence and sex trafficking. She is co-chair of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition.

New York City’s rent laws expire June 15, and tenant advocates and some state lawmakers think a renewal of the laws should include cities outside of New York, including upstate.

A hearing held by the state Assembly sought input on that proposal and eight other rent reform bills introduced in both houses of the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Two bills approved Wednesday in the state Senate could affect President Donald Trump and his associates.

One would permit the state tax department to give the president’s New York tax returns to congressional committees. The other would ensure that anyone the president pardons for federal crimes could still be prosecuted for crimes committed in New York state. 

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins predicted the measures will have a “major impact both nationally and in New York state.”

More than 100 sex workers came to the Capitol on Tuesday to lobby for two bills that they say would help keep them safe and end some of the stigma associated with their jobs. 

The workers, joined by lawmakers who back the bills, told stories of what led them to the work.

Jessica Raven, a mother and community organizer with the group DecrimNY, is a former sex worker. She said she needed to earn money to survive when she became homeless at age 15 after being sexually assaulted in the foster care system.

Supporters hope that their efforts to change an 80-year-old law that excludes farmworkers from many of the protections afforded to other workers in New York, may finally meet with success in the all Democratic-led State Legislature. 

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