Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Correspondent

 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.

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The New York state legislature is passing the toughest in the nation gun control laws laid out by Governor Cuomo . The Senate voted late Monday evening , and the Assembly was expected to act Tuesday morning.

The measures close loopholes in the state’s existing assault weapons ban to now include all assault rifles. Owners of the weapons will be allowed to keep their guns, but must register them and can’t sell them to others in New York State.  Magazine clips holding more than seven bullets will also be outlawed.

New details are emerging on gun control legislation that lawmakers say could be passed as early as today.

Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein predicts that New York State could have the toughest in the nation gun control laws before Tuesday that includes closing loopholes in the assault weapons ban and strengthened penalties for illegal guns. 

“When all is said and done, we’re going to pass a comprehensive gun bill today,” Klein said.

Anti-fracking activists, including Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, attempted to present the state’s environmental agency with over 200,000 comments, on the last day of a public comment period on the gas drilling process.They also tried to deliver a letter to Governor Cuomo.

The wife and son of slain Beatle John Lennon traveled to the Capitol on what could be the last day of the final public comment period on whether hydro fracking should go forward in New York.

Yoko Ono says Governor Cuomo  should “tell the truth” about fracking.

Governor Andrew Cuomo,in his third State of the State message Wednesday asked lawmakers to help him “stop the madness”, and pass tough new anti-gun legislation. Cuomo also focused on changes to better prepare for future  superstorms and to approve a new women’s equality act.

The Governor’s 2013 State of the State speech will spend some time on what was perhaps the biggest event of 2012, Superstorm Sandy. Cuomo, in the days leading up to his speech, has heard reports from three post-storm related commissions that he appointed.  He says he’ll incorporate some of their ideas, like better standardized training for emergency response workers, privatizing the Long Island Power Authority, which had a poor track record restoring power after the storm, and stricter regulation of the other electric utilities.

Governor Cuomo and Republicans in the Senate remain at an impasse over gun control legislation - just two days before the State of the State.

Meanwhile, the State Comptroller says he’s thinking of  divesting the state’s pension fund from investments in gun manufacturers.

Governor Cuomo has been negotiating  with the legislature to try to come up with a package of gun control measures to be put into law this month. But in recent days, Cuomo and Senate Republicans have been trading press releases that reveal the depth of the impasse.

Governor Cuomo says he intends to propose in his State of the State message several recommendations from a disaster preparedness commission, to help the state better cope with major storms in the future.

Governor Cuomo, who has had to cope with the aftermath of two major storms in his two years in office, Irene in 2011, and now Sandy, says the state could be better prepared for climate change that the governor believes could be the new normal.

Governor Cuomo's education commission has recommendations for some education reforms. Commission chair and former Citigroup executive Dick Parsons says school days and the school year should be longer, and children from disadvantaged backgrounds should begin their education with all day pre-kindergarten.

Parson summed up the report’s underlying premise as: “Get them sooner, keep them longer and do more with them when you’ve got them”.

Governor Cuomo says the ideas are “bold” and “exciting”, but he cautions that there might not be enough money right now.

Food pantries and soup kitchens say they are reluctantly becoming a permanent part of the nation’s safety net for the poor. In a new report on New York’s charitable food distribution system, the groups say it is government that needs to step in and lend a helping hand.

The survey finds the 560 food pantries and soup kitchens in New York are being squeezed by growing demand, dwindling donations, and even an aging out of available volunteers to distribute the food.

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