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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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The first public meeting of the state’s new ethics commission came on the day that another State Senator pleaded guilty to felony corruption charges. Questions were raised about the closed door portion of the commission’s meeting.

Shortly after noon, The Chair of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Janet DiFiore, called the meeting to order.

“We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us,” DiFiore told the assembled commissioners.

State Comptroller  Tom DiNapoli’s office is helping municipalities comply with the complexities of the new property tax cap, but he says it’s too early to tell yet what the out come of the new law will be.

DiNapoli says so far, around one fifth of counties have taken preliminary steps to override the cap, as they are permitted to do under the law as long as they can muster a 60% majority vote from their county legislature or board of supervisors.

State lawmakers have not yet released their proposed  maps for new district lines. A government reform group has tried to fill the void by releasing its own set of maps that it says are a model for non partisan districts.   

Sue Lerner, with Common Cause, says her group has released proposed maps of legislative districts that it says are non partisan, and are based on grouping regions and neighborhoods with similar characteristics together.

“They’re built on factors that are important to people, not politicians,” said Lerner.

The state’s new ethics commission, announced this week,   is already raising some questions after holding its first meeting in private, without public notice.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced their appointments to the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE early in the week. It was the last possible day before the commission was, under law, required to begin its work. 

The first meeting was held late Thursday. It was a private teleconference, and no public notice was given.  The Associated Press first reported the existence of the meeting.

A study by the New York State School Boards Association finds three quarters of the state’s school districts would have exceeded the new 2% property tax cap, had it been in effect for the current school year budget. 

The group predicts that the new tax cap and schools are “on a collision course.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced legislation that would require coaches at high schools and universities to report suspected incidents of child sexual abuse. The governor says the bill is in response to the alleged sex abuse charges against Syracuse University basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine.

Under current state laws, coaches are exempt from rules that require teachers and school health care professionals to report to police any suspected child sexual abuse. Cuomo says the legislation would close that gap.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders have released the names of their appointments to the newest version of the state ethics commission Monday. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, by law begins its work on Tuesday.  

Governor Cuomo named Janet DiFiore, the District Attorney of Westchester County, to chair the commission. He also appointed Seymour Knox the IV, who is VP of Corporate Relations for the Buffalo Sabres, as well as the chair of a private equity firm, and Mitra Hormozi, who worked for Cuomo when he was Attorney General.   

When Governor Cuomo convinced the legislature to pass a new temporary income tax surcharge on New York’s wealthiest, it was an abrupt policy change from the anti tax views that the governor had advocated as recently as October. But, As Karen DeWitt reports Cuomo’s reversal will likely do him more political good than harm.

Governor Cuomo, in his first day on the job back on January 1st of this year, laid out his position on raising taxes pretty clearly.

“I say no new taxes, period,” Cuomo said on January 1.

One day after Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced major changes in the state’s tax code, lawmakers, who are voting on the measure, are busy portraying the deal in the best possible light.

Senators and Assemblymembers were set to vote on bills that would raise rates on New Yorkers earning more than $2 million dollars a year for the next three years, but would slightly lower the tax rates for the middle class permanently.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders have announced a deal to raise taxes on the rich, and slightly lower taxes for the middle class.

Cuomo, who for months resisted renewing New York’s temporary income tax surcharge on the wealthy, saying it would hurt the state’s competitive edge for business, has now changed his mind.

 He says he and legislative leaders have agreed to once again temporarily raise taxes on the rich, with a new higher tax bracket for those making over $2 million dollars a year.

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