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.

A case that was heard Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court and will be decided later this year could have a big impact on public worker unions in New York.

The case, known as Janus v. AFSCME, was brought by Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois who is challenging his state’s policy of requiring that he pay union dues to the Illinois branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees even though he does not want to be a member.

Democrats in the New York state Senate say they will push harder for gun control bills in the wake of the Florida shooting that left 17 dead and are even considering proposing the measures as hostile amendments.

Before they left for the Presidents week break, Senate Democrats pushed for more measures to strengthen gun control in New York. The state already has one of the strongest gun laws in the nation. Known as the SAFE Act, it was passed shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, was officially nominated for re-election Friday at a meeting of the State Democratic Party in Albany, where she said she will serve out her entire six-year term if she wins the race in November.

Gillibrand, who was unanimously nominated to run for a second full term, focused her speech in part on Democratic frustrations over lack of gun control laws in Washington in the aftermath of the Florida high school mass shooting.  She said Americans are being “slaughtered,” and Congress is “turning a blind eye.”

Some Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a measure that would make anonymous political ads on Facebook and other social media illegal. They say the ads are being abused to falsely represent their positions on issues.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Island Democrat, said there’s been a lot of publicity about Russian operatives using Facebook and other social media to influence the 2016 presidential race. But he said it’s also happening in New York races, and it needs to stop.

“It’s undermining our democracy,” Kaminsky said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is putting $7 million into his 30-day budget amendments to fund poll sites for early voting in New York by the 2020 presidential race.

The funds would be used to set up at least one polling site in every county 12 days before Election Day so that voters can have several weekdays and two full weekends before elections to cast their ballot early.

Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, made the announcement on Monday.

The head of the state’s Republican Party has filed a formal complaint with the state’s public ethics commission, alleging that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his top aide — Joe Percoco, now on trial for bribery — broke the state’s public officers law.

The letter, written by State GOP Chair Ed Cox, cites evidence presented in the federal corruption trial of Cuomo’s former top aide. It shows Percoco frequented his former state offices, adjacent to Cuomo’s offices, while Percoco was off the state payroll and managing Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign.

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will detail his proposals to help New Yorkers affected by changes to the federal tax law. But Republicans who rule the state Senate are cool to the ideas, including one that creates a payroll tax instead of a state income tax.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget director said 30-day amendments to the governor’s spending plan, which is due out later this week, will include an overhaul of the state’s tax code. It will include plans to ease the effects of the loss of the state and local tax deductions in the new federal tax overhaul.

Robert Mujica said the governor will propose a payroll tax credit program that businesses could use instead of the state and local income tax system.

He said for workers who have to pay more in taxes under the federal overhaul, this could help make them whole. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to call for special elections to be held April 24 to fill two empty Senate seats, according to a state official who confirmed the date. The news is fueling hopes among Senate Democrats that they can gain control of the chamber before the end of the session.

A third Republican candidate has announced his intention to run for governor against Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Syracuse-area Sen. John DeFrancisco said he thinks it’s time for a change.

DeFrancisco, who is currently the deputy majority leader, said eight years of Andrew Cuomo is a long time, and someone new needs to take over.

“My real feeling is that enough is enough,” DeFrancisco said. “I’ve got the fire in my belly and I’m going to go for it.”

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