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 fast tracking the budget process, as they try to reach final agreements and get bills printed by the weekend.  The negotiations drew protesters to the Capitol, who are demanding that the budget include a minimum wage increase to $9 an hour, with automatic future increases for inflation.

The 50 or so demonstrators directed their ire toward Governor Cuomo and Senate Co Leader Jeff Klein, who they say aren’t doing enough to convince Republicans in the Senate to go along with a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders  are working to finish the state budget ten days before the deadline, to avoid a collision with the Easter and Passover holidays, which begin March 25.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders held what’s become their daily private meeting.

They emerged in good spirits, but with no settlement.

“We have a deal, we agree we’re going to continue to talk,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

One of the areas of disagreement in the state budget centers on funding for services for New York’s developmentally disabled people.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says there's been talk of  amending the state’s recently enacted gun control law, to permit a ten-bullet magazine clip in certain circumstances. Silver remained noncommittal about the change.

The New York State Assembly has approved, by a 95 to 40 vote, a two year moratorium on hydro fracking in New York. While it’s unlikely to be passed in the Senate, the action reflects state lawmaker’s growing worries about potential health impacts from the natural gas drilling process.

The New York State Assembly voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour. But the measure remains stalled in the State Senate.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver added yet another reason to his long list of reasons he thinks the state’e minimum wage is too low and needs to be increased. He says we are in the midst of a “jobless recovery”, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at a record high, past 14,000.

A push to ban the fitness supplement DMAA brought a sports hero to the capitol and parents who say they lost their son to the substance.

Senate Co Leader Jeff Klein is pressing to ban the performance enhancing supplement DMAA, also know n as Jack 3 D in New York ,saying it causes dangerous conditions like rapid heart beat, a spike in blood pressure, and in some cases, death from stroke or heart attack.

“This won’t be tolerated,” Senator Klein said.

Senate Republicans are pushing for middle class tax breaks in the new state budget, including a return to the STAR property tax rebate checks curtailed in 2009.

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos wants to increase the tax break for dependents and the child tax credit , and return to the rebate checks for home owners part of the  STAR  property tax program. He says the average family of four could end up with $1000 more dollars each year.

“It always seems that middle income family is the family that is getting choked in this state ,” Skelos said.

Governor Cuomo faces a tough choice as he continues to ponder the decision on whether to allow fracking in New York.  As Karen DeWitt reports, there’s no easy way to win for the governor.

It seems wherever Governor Cuomo goes these days, he’s followed by protesters who implore him not to allow hydro fracking in New York.  Hundreds gathered in the ornate Million Dollar staircase in the Capitol, where they listen to celebrities and actors like Mark Ruffalo, aka the Hulk.

“We’ll cream you if you open New York State to hydro fracking,” Ruffalo bellowed, to cheers.

A rally against New York’s newly enacted gun control laws drew one of the largest crowds to the State Capitol in recent decades.

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