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.

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia abruptly resigned Monday, taking members of the state Board of Regents by surprise. She said she will take a new job at the end of August at an unnamed national firm. 

Elia, who is the first female commissioner in the history of the State Education Department, said she decided now is the right time to leave the post, and has agreed to accept a job with a national firm that works to turn around struggling public schools.

The first lawsuit has been filed against New York's new law to permit undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses as Gov. Andrew Cuomo continued to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the new law.

The lawsuit filed by Erie County Clerk Michael "Mickey" Kearns seeks court action to prevent the state from forcing county clerks who are against the new law to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Kearns. speaking a few days before the suit was filed, said he believes the New York law is unconstitutional.

A bill to allow automatic voter registration in New York failed in the final days of the legislative session, after a mistake in the language would have inadvertently allowed undocumented immigrants to vote.

Sponsors said it was an honest mistake, but it caused concern among Republicans in the state Legislature and earned Democrats a chiding from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  

A bill currently before Gov. Andrew Cuomo would regulate the sale of CBD products in New York state and set up new rules for the state’s growing hemp industry.

Cuomo has not yet decided whether he’s going to sign it, potentially leaving what is now a legal gray area in limbo.

CBD, or cannabidiol, products seem to be for sale everywhere these days -- in health food stores, grocery stores and pet stores.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is on his way to Israelto carry out what he says is an economic mission. But Cuomo says the trip has a personal focus as well.

Cuomo says he’ll meet with business leaders at Technion University about four key industries- tech start –ups,  innovations in drones and medical technology, and navigation devices that are being developed for uses like self driving cars. An MTA official is also on the trip, to see if the navigation techniques can be used to replace the aging signal system on New York City’s subways and on commuter rail lines.   

Advocates of legalizing adult recreational marijuana said they plan to spend the next six months convincing state lawmakers to allow the drug to be sold and used in New York after a measure failed in the final days of the session. 

State senators and Assembly members are pushing for action to combat climate change before the legislative session ends later this month.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the plan is too ambitious and unrealistic.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky, chair of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation committee, said he thinks that the state can enact the major anti-climate change measure between now and June 19, when the session is scheduled to end. He said there isn’t time to wait.

Hundreds of tenants’ rights protesters at the State Capitol on Tuesday blocked the entrances to the Senate and Assembly chambers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office as they demanded that the 2019 session not end until there is reform of the rent laws.

The groups achieved some results: Senate Democrats announced they have agreed to the measures pushed by the groups. 

The state Senate held a hearing on how New York can join 15 other states and implement automatic voter registration.

Advocates said it could result in 2 million more registered voters in a state that has one of the worst records for voter registration and participation.

Under the proposal, instead of opting in to vote, residents would opt out.

A leading business group has come out in favor of granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, increasing the chances of the bill’s passage in the state Legislature this year.

Heather Briccetti, president of The Business Council, said reinstituting the policy of issuing New York state driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants will make the roads safer and help businesses that are seeking workers during a labor shortage.