Capitol Bureau

Capitol Bureau correspondent Karen DeWitt reports on what is happening in Albany, and how the decisions made by lawmakers affect you. Karen reports for WXXI and 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 New York Now, the statewide public television program about New York State government seen on WXXI-TV Sundays at 6:30 p.m.  

In a new poll released Monday, voters give Governor Andrew Cuomo mixed reviews on his education policies. They say they like a new agreement on teacher evaluations, but a narrow margin say the governor is overall making the problems in the education system worse.

The poll, by Siena College, asked voters whether they think a new teacher evaluation system brokered by Governor Cuomo will improve the quality of education in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s popularity has slipped a bit in a new poll released Monday, but with a 69% approval rating, it seems the governor does not have much to worry about.

The Siena College poll finds that Cuomo’s approval rating among voters is down five percentage points from last month, but Siena’s Steve Greenberg says he doesn’t view that as a trend yet.

“His favorability rating, his job performance rating, are still the envy of any politician or elected official anywhere,” says Greenberg.

With one month to go before the state budget is due,  pension reform remains a focus of discussion between Governor Cuomo and the legislature.

Governor Cuomo pulled back a bit from his plan to offer, for the first time,  a 401k style option for newly hired public workers, saying he’s “flexible”  on  it, but the governor does say he’s not bending on the need for a new pension tier with lowered benefits that produces “maximum amount of savings”.

Rochester Mayor Tom Richards, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and mayors and county leaders from around the state came to the state Capitol to support Governor Andrew Cuomo’s push for pension reform, saying they are “crashing and burning” under the rising costs.


Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who organized the lobbying trip says the issue is very simple- pension payments are driving municipalities to near bankruptcy.


A federal court is taking over the drawing of new congressional district maps in New York, after lawmakers failed to meet their own self imposed deadline to draw new lines.  Lawmakers have already released new maps for Senate and Assembly lines and a coalition that includes  former State Attorney General Robert Abrams is urging Governor Cuomo to use a veto threat as leverage to win changes for next time.

Governor  Cuomo has called the legislative district maps designed by the Assembly and Senate “hyper-partisan”, and has said he’ll veto them if they are not amended.  


Governor Andrew Cuomo walked back a step from his proposal to give new state workers the option of a 401k style pension plan Monday, but the governor says without major pension reform, local governments and the state of  New York could end up “bankrupt”.


Cuomo told a receptive audience of mayors from around the state, gathered at their annual conference, that New York’s current pension system is unsustainable and must be changed.


Just hours before a deadline imposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, state education officials and the teachers unions came to some agreements on a statewide teacher evaluation plan.

Cuomo had offered an ultimatum to teachers and the state education department: come to an agreement on a long stalled teacher evaluation system, or the governor said, he would impose his own plan as part of his 30 day amendments to his budget. Cuomo had until the close of business Thursday to legally amend his budget, and by noon time, the agreement was announced. Cuomo called it a “major step forward.”

The legislature’s newly drawn state Senate and Assembly  lines, as well as the congressional lines, may be headed toward a federal court appointed special master.

A federal judge has named a three member panel to look at whether the drawing of new congressional and possibly legislative district lines should be taken away from the legislature and put into the hands of a federally appointed special master.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’s trying to make government more efficient by taking pre audit oversight powers away from the State’s Comptroller in his state budget proposal.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli criticized Cuomo’s proposal, saying the pre audits have saved millions of dollars by flagging potential problems in the contracts. Cuomo says he’s not taking away the comptroller’s authority but trying to speed up an inefficient procurement process.  The governor suggests some of the pre audits significantly delay the contract process.

A State Senator from Western New York was back at work at the State Capitol Monday, following an incident over the weekend at a Niagara Falls Indian Casino where he and his wife were involved in a fight.