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.

Jurors in the federal corruption trial of the former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo say they’re deadlocked, but the judge told them to keep deliberating.

While Judge Valerie Caproni is giving jurors Wednesday off for a snow day, she told them they have to come back on Thursday.

The jurors in the bribery trial of Joe Percoco and three other defendants, now in its seventh week, told the judge Tuesday that they are deadlocked, and that the only thing they can agree on is that they disagree.

During a debate in the New York State Senate on enhanced school safety measures, Democrats asked the Republican majority to support a bill to ban teachers from having guns in schools.

Senator Todd Kaminksy, a Democrat from Long Island, says allowing teachers to be armed, as President Trump is proposing, would be “misguided”. Kaminksy’s bill would ban the practice from even starting in New York.

“Guns in our classrooms is dangerous, it’s a matter of time before something goes wrong,” Kaminsky said. “The answer to our gun problem is not more guns.”  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former closest aide, Joe Percoco, is waiting to find out whether he’ll be convicted of bribery and other charges as a jury continues to deliberate in federal court.

Government reform groups say regardless of the verdict, the trial highlighted some questionable but legal practices in New York that they say taint the governor’s reputation and need to be fixed. 

Democrats in the State Senate tried to force a vote on gun control legislation in the State Senate, to put Republicans on the spot over some GOP Senators’ resistance to the bills.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says  the measures include banning possession of bump stocks, the ammunition booster used in the Las Vegas shootings. They also permit a judge to limit a person’s access to guns if they are deemed likely to harm themselves or others, known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order.

Advocates who want the Child Victims Act passed in New York are stepping up pressure on Republicans in the state Senate. Some GOP senators are the final holdouts on the bill that would extend the statute of limitations and open up a one-year window for victims to file civil lawsuits.

The measure would allow someone to take court action up until the victim is the age of 50. The current age limit is 23.

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.

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