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Karen DeWitt

Capitol Bureau Correspondent

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Correspondent 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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Governor Cuomo's office

There was a somber tone to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10th State of the State message in a year where the state is facing a $6 billion deficit and reeling from a recent spate of hate crimes, including a stabbing incident at a rabbi’s house outside New York City.

“It is going to be a challenging year,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

Cuomo said recent events have been frightening, including an earthquake in Puerto Rico, deep and bitter political divides, and the attack on Orthodox Jews celebrating Hanukkah that injured five, one severely.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

The minority party Republicans in the state Assembly have a new leader.

Will Barclay from the Syracuse area replaces Brian Kolb, who resigned after being charged with drunken driving on New Year’s Eve.

GOP members, who hold less than one-third of the total seats in the Assembly, spent less than an hour in a closed-door meeting to elect Barclay as their new leader.

Among some top state Democrats, there are some cracks in the support for criminal justice reforms in 2020 that have eliminated most forms of cash bail. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's attorney general are among those now saying they are open to making some changes. 

Over the New Year’s holiday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s health care providers will see a 1% drop in the reimbursements they receive for the government-funded Medicaid health care program.

It’s part of an effort to reduce a multi-billion-dollar budget gap that the state is facing.

For the next three months, hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers will see a cut in the amount they get from New York state for services billed through the Medicaid program for lower-income New Yorkers.

On Jan. 1, several new laws take effect in New York, including major changes to the criminal justice system.

New York will end cash bail for people accused of nonviolent crimes, and prosecutors will have to promptly turn over to defendants the evidence that they have against them. 

New York state begins the new year with the biggest budget deficit since the Great Recession, estimated at $5 billion to $6 billion. 

Jessica Marshall New York Now

Beginning Jan. 1, some criminal justice law changes take effect in New York that have divided defendants' rights advocates and law enforcement groups. 

New York will end cash bail for everyone accused of a nonviolent crime and adopt new rules in the pretrial discovery process. It will require prosecutors to turn over to defendants all of the evidence that they have against them within 15 days of arrest. 

wnyc.org

With support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and many members of the state legislature, 2020 could be the year when New York legalizes the adult use of recreational marijuana.

But the issue has become complicated by a widespread lung ailment linked to vaping. 

A measure to legalize cannabis for adults was proposed in 2019, as part of the state budget. It did not make it into the final spending plan, and it failed to win enough support to pass as a standalone bill in the state Senate.

Attorneys in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office are plowing through a record number of bills passed by the State Legislature this year, and deciding which ones to sign, and which ones to veto.

Some measures have support but still might not make it into law this year, including one that would outlaw some harmful chemicals in children’s toys.

opb.org

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is releasing some of his proposals for the new year early, and one of them is a plan to ban polystyrene -- a plastic foam commonly known as Styrofoam -- in takeout containers from restaurants and fast-food outlets.

It follows the passage of a new law to ban single-use plastic bags in New York, which takes effect in March.

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