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.  

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.

The New York State Assembly has introduced a bill to hold all of the state’s primary elections on June 26th, to correspond with a court order requiring that congressional primary contests be held then.  So far, the State Senate wants to hold the state primaries on a separate date, in late August.

WXXI Capitol Bureau: The Latest on Redistricting

Feb 13, 2012

WXXI News Director Julie Philipp and Capitol Bureau Correspondent Karen DeWitt discuss the newly proposed redistricting maps in New York State and how they could impact the future makeup of the legislature.

This discussion originally aired on Need to Know Rochester February 10, 2012.

In an interview with public radio, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman talks about the mortgage foreclosure settlement reached with some major banks. Schneiderman, who was a hold out on the deal until the final hours before the agreement was reached, says his resistance gained the right to continue criminal prosecutions against the banking industry for possible fraud, and to provide money for underwater and foreclosed homeowners for legal representation.    He admits the deal is a "down payment", and "one step on a long path".  

With just six weeks left in the state’s fiscal year, the Cuomo Administration has still not settled labor contracts with some significant unions, including all of the state’s prisons guards, and professors and other staff at the State University System.

Governor Cuomo sought $250 million dollars in workforce savings in the current state budget, which expires on March 31st. He said the money would come either through union concession in new contracts, or from up to 10,000 lay offs.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been taking some heat for a series of actions that have been criticized as consolidating more power for the executive branch, at the expense of the legislature and even some other statewide office holders.   

When  Governor Cuomo’s tax commissioner  authorized 62 members of the Inspector General’s staff to look at state employees tax returns, in the context of an investigation, it was viewed with suspicion by members of the state legislature.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver expressed reservations.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says that Governor Cuomo’s budget is mostly in balance, but he warns that  some proposals would give the governor too much power at the expense of other branches of government.


Occupy protesters briefly disrupted a state budget hearing at the State Capitol Monday,  saying they were angered by inequities in the tax system.

About two dozen Occupy demonstrators chanting “hey you, millionaires, pay you’re fair share unfurled banners at a legislative budget hearing on taxes.  They held a brief mike check denouncing the state’s tax policies, then left.

Occupier Stefan Fink says he’s unimpressed by recent actions by Governor Cuomo and the legislature to renew a temporary tax surcharge on the rich and says more basic inequalities need to be addressed.

A new poll finds most New Yorkers do not think giving the state’s top politicians a pay raise is a good idea right now.

Some lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, have been saying recently that lawmakers “deserve” a pay raise, and have suggested setting up a commission, but a new poll by Siena College finds voters are opposed by a two to one margin, with 67% opposed and 31% in support.  Siena’s Steve Greenberg says those surveyed like the idea of a pay hike for the governor and his top commissioners even less, with 74% against and 25% in favor.

This week’s New York NOW on WXXI-TV features a one-on-one interview with longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D- Manhattan).  

This week he put out a proposal that would raise New York's minimum wage to $8.50 per hour in January of 2013. It will surely pass his chamber, but is the governor on board?   

Silver sat down with WXXI Capitol Bureau Correspondent Karen DeWitt of New York State Public Radio. He also talked about why he's pushing for a pay raise for his fellow lawmakers.