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Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Chief

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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On national voter registration day, pro voting rights groups are encouraging potential voters to register, and for those who do want to vote, to make a plan in advance.  There are some important dates for voters in New York to remember.

Governor Cuomo's office

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is dismissing as “political” President Donald Trump’s Justice Department move to classify New York City, Seattle and Portland as “anarchy” jurisdictions, and withhold billions of dollars in federal funds.   

Trump’s Attorney General William Barr says state and local leaders in New York, Washington State and Oregon impeded local law enforcement from doing their jobs during weeks of civil rights protests in the three cities this year.   Elected officials in New York, Seattle and Portland have all opposed federal intervention in the protests.

northcountrypublicradio.org

A decision by New Jersey leaders to raise taxes on that state’s wealthiest residents has provided new hope to advocates who want to tax the rich in New York -- but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his budget director are throwing cold water on that proposal. 

New Jersey’s top tax rate for those making between $1 million and $5 million a year will rise to 10.75%. That rate already applied to people making over $5 million a year. 

Those who want to tax the rich in New York hailed the move and asked Cuomo to follow suit.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

Sometime in November, the New York State Thruway system will transition to cashless tolling. All of its tollbooths will go dark, and a network of electronic tolling monitors will switch on.

Matt Ryan New York Now

New York’s fiscal year is nearly half over, and the state budget remains billions of dollars out of balance, largely due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic-related economic shutdown.

So far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been relying on temporary measures to keep the state afloat, but fiscal experts say it’s time to make some hard decisions. 

E.J. McMahon with the conservative-leaning fiscal watchdog group the Empire Center, and Ron Deutsch with the liberal-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute, do agree on some things.

Monday was the first day back at school for many of New York’s kindergarten through 12th-grade students, though some students will learn remotely.

Health officials say they will monitor whether the in-person classes cause any outbreaks of COVID-19. 

The New York State Health Department has set up a dashboard for parents who want to see whether anyone in their child’s school district has tested positive for the coronavirus. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new site a few days ago. 

“If there’s a problem, we will see the problem,” the governor said on Sept. 10.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / Science Source / NPR

A new poll finds New Yorkers are not optimistic about the fall, with the overwhelming majority saying they expect another COVID-19 outbreak in the coming months.

The rate of transmission of the virus in New York has been under 1% for over three weeks, but that has not calmed fears, according to the Siena College Research Institute survey.

Dan Clark New York Now

Schools in New York are busy finalizing plans to partially reopen, and many colleges and universities have already begun classes. But those who work at the schools, including teachers and professors, say guidelines for when to wear masks need to be more comprehensive to help prevent spread of the coronavirus.  

The state’s largest teachers union, New York State United Teachers, wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, asking him to revise the policy on masks in schools to make them mandatory while in the classroom. 

Over the weekend, the State University of New York at Oneonta became the first in the 64-campus system to shut down in-person classes for two weeks after a coronavirus outbreak. State and college officials are trying to prevent that closure from becoming a trend. 

Newly appointed SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, a close ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, ordered the closure of in-person classes after several off-campus house parties were connected to 105 students, or 3% of the campus population, testing positive for coronavirus. 

freeimages.com/Holger Selover-Stephan

More schools around New York say they are scaling back on plans for in-person learning and expanding remote instruction, citing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s temporary 20% cut in state aid to schools which was enacted to help close a pandemic related state budget deficit.

Now, the attorney who won a court case over a lack of school funding, Michael Rebell, says the cuts might be unconstitutional, and is looking into seeking  an injunction against them.   

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