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.  


New York state’s environmental agency will begin enforcing a ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other retailers on Oct. 19, more than seven months after the law took effect.

The law banning the single-use bags was to have taken effect on March 1, with a grace period before actual enforcement began. But the COVID-19 pandemic, and an unsuccessful lawsuit brought by the plastics industry, delayed its implementation.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said that changes next month.

Governor Cuomo's office

Governor Andrew Cuomo is responding to critics who say the state needs to make decisions on how to close its COVID-19 related multi billion dollar deficit. He says the federal government needs to provide relief, because it was the not the state’s fault.

Governor Cuomo's office

Saying he does not trust the federal government, Governor Andrew Cuomo says New York State will conduct its own review of any COVID-19 vaccines that are deemed to be ready for use.

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.


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.