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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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Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon has outlined her plans for legalizing marijuana in New York in a video, saying the state lags far behind some other states. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s studying the issue.

Nixon, who is challenging Cuomo in a Democratic primary, said New York should follow the lead of eight other states and end a “key front” in what she called the “racist” war on drugs.

The political activist group Citizen Action has endorsed Cynthia Nixon, a Democratic primary candidate for governor. It’s the second grass-roots organization to endorse the New York City actor in two days.

On Monday, the New York City-based progressive group New York Communities for Change, which advocates for tenants’ rights and affordable housing, endorsed Nixon, saying that Gov. Andrew Cuomo “caters” too much to the real estate industry.

Cynthia Nixon spent Thursday traveling the New York State Thruway from Syracuse to Rochester as part of her upstate campaign swing. In between stops, the actor and underdog candidate talked about how Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential race helped inspire her to run for governor and why she thinks Andrew Cuomo is not doing enough to help the state.

Two warring factions of Democrats in the state Senate are rejoining forces as pressure has mounted from the party’s left-leaning base for a reunification.

But the Democrats are still one vote short of the 32 seats they need to regain the majority.

The nearly decade-long split between the mainstream Democrats and the Independent Democratic Conference is over. At a hastily arranged news conference in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York City offices, Cuomo said it’s essential that the Democrats get back together to fight a “common enemy” – President Donald Trump.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seeking a third term in office, is facing challenges both from the left of his party and from a new Republican candidate. But the two candidates, Cynthia Nixon and Marc Molinaro, share a common theme — they say they are nicer than Cuomo.

Actor and progressive Democratic candidate Cynthia Nixon said Cuomo is more than simply a hard-charging type of politician.

“We’ve all seen it,” Nixon said in an appearance in Albany on March 26. “Andrew the bully. He bullies other elected officials. He bullies anyone who criticizes him.”

Another candidate has announced he will challenge Andrew Cuomo for governor. This time, it’s Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who offered a political indictment of Cuomo’s practices and temperament in office.

The 42-year-old Molinaro made his announcement in Tivoli, the small Hudson Valley village where he grew up and where he became mayor at the age of 19. He also served in the state Assembly before holding his current job running a county that is part New York City suburb and part country.

Governor Cuomo's office

The newly approved New York State budget includes a work around for the partial loss of state and local tax deductions in the federal tax overhaul.

The legislature largely accepted Cuomo’s plan to provide an optional pay roll tax to substitute for the state income tax for businesses who adopt the program. The employer would still be able to take a deduction for the pay roll tax, and workers would have less taxable income to pay to the federal government.    

The new state budget includes anti-sexual harassment measures that will apply to both government and private-sector workplaces.

The new rules will end state taxpayer-financed settlements for state officials who are found to be abusers. It also will prohibit mandatory arbitration for cases of alleged sexual harassment. And it will end secret settlements, unless it’s at the request of the victim.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Cathy Young, who sponsored the Senate’s version of the measure, says it’s a “victory” for New Yorkers.

Matt Ryan New York Now

State budget talks became heated in the final hours of negotiations Friday, as ultimatums were offered and there were threats of a government shutdown.

With just hours to go before the Passover holiday, the budget remained stuck over one or two key issues.

One, said Assembly Democrats, was a demand from the lone Democratic senator who sits with the Republican Senate majority. Sen. Simcha Felder wanted religious yeshiva schools to be exempt from some curriculum rules imposed by the state education department.

Budget tensions are coming to a head at the State Capitol, as lawmakers pressed for time due to the beginning of the spring holidays, are offering ultimatums in order to get the spending plan done.

On Friday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced he’s agreed with Governor Cuomo to send up the budget as is.

He says 99 percent is agreed to by all sides. It’s essentially a take it or leave it measure to the Senate. Heastie says if the government shuts down, it’s going to be the Senate’s fault.

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