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

With just three weeks and one day to go before a state budget deadline, Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders met to assess how far they have to go to reach a deal.

In order to meet their self imposed deadline of March 21st to complete a spending plan, Governor Cuomo and lawmakers will have to work through some thorny issues like disagreements over the state’s minimum wage and how to expand casino gambling.

“We have a number of issues on the table that are challenging,” Cuomo said. “It’s going well, but am I concerned? Yes”.

A leading budget watchdog group is urging rejection of a key component of Governor Cuomo’s budget plan. It would allow cities and schools to put off some payments to their pension funds.

The Governor’s proposal, known as the pension stabilization plan, would allow schools and municipalities to “smooth” out their pension payments over a 25 year period, by paying less now, but more later.

Governor Cuomo made several changes to his budget plan in 30 day amendments . As Karen DeWitt reports, the amendments range from imposing a teacher evaluation plan on New York City, to cutting the cost of hunting licenses.

Cuomo amended his budget to impose a teacher evaluation system on New York City. The Bloomberg Administration and the teacher’s union failed to reach agreement by a January deadline set by Cuomo, and the City stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in school aid.

The state’s largest teachers union has filed a lawsuit against the state’s property tax cap, arguing it’s unconstitutional.

New York State United Teachers President Dick Iannuzzi says the cap, passed by Cuomo and the legislature in 2011, arbitrarily limits property tax increase to 2%, regardless of whether a school district is rich or poor. The lawsuit also charges that the tax cap violates the principle of one person one vote, because a supermajority of 60% of voters is required to override the cap.

A group pressing for public campaign financing has compiled a list of large corporations who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to some New York lawmakers. They charge that the donations are preventing the legislature from closing what they say are corporate tax loopholes.

A document from Governor Cuomo’s Administration assessing the health impacts of hydro fracking, written several months ago, says the gas drilling process is likely safe if proper precautions are taken by the governor’s environmental agency. 

A February deadline on New York’s process to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be missed, with Governor Cuomo’s Health Commissioner now saying he needs more time to complete an ongoing health study.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said he wants to study potential health impacts from hydrofracking further, and will review some new comprehensive studies on  health and fracking that have been released over the past few weeks.

Dueling pro and anti fracking filmmakers held screenings and promotions for their films, as they await a decision by Governor Cuomo on whether fracking will go forward in New York. That could come by the end of the month. At one point in the day, the two sides confronted each other in the halls of the Capitol.

Phelim McAleer is the creator of Fracknation, a film that claims to rebut charges made by environmentalists and the popular anti fracking movie “Gasland”. He came to Albany to hold a screening of his film.

Governor Cuomo’s Court of Appeals nominee was approved in the State Senate on a voice vote, after an unusually contentious process.

Cuomo’s nominee Jenny Rivera had already faced extensive grilling from Senate Republicans, who are in a coalition government with several break away Democrats. Then, during the vote on the Senate floor, some GOP Senators rose to say that she was not the best candidate.

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