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.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

As the new year begins, New York state leaders face two major challenges. One is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as infection rates spike again and a vaccine rollout begins. The second is the state’s related multibillion-dollar budget deficit, which needs to be closed by spring.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s been given special emergency powers from the state Legislature during the pandemic, will likely continue to be the major figure as state officials try to bring down the coronavirus infection rate and ensure a fast and efficient rollout of the vaccine.

Matt Ryan New York Now

Under new laws that take effect in 2021, more New Yorkers will receive paid sick leave benefits, and some minimum-wage workers will see their wages rise. 

A new law guarantees at least five days of sick leave. Large and medium businesses must pay their employees if they are out because of their own illness, or to care for a sick family member. The sick leave can also be used to deal with safety issues related to domestic violence or sexual assault.

Governor Cuomo's office

While many New Yorkers will be happy to put 2020 behind them, there’s no denying it was a year like no other. At the Capitol, the Legislature took a back seat as Gov. Andrew Cuomo gained power and popularity among residents who eagerly tuned in for his coronavirus briefings.

The year began with the governor following a decades-long tradition, giving a State of the State speech to a packed house of hundreds of guests, this year in the Capitol’s convention center.

“Happy New Year to all of you,” Cuomo said on Jan. 8 as the crowd applauded.

Governor Cuomo's office

The long awaited new Penn Station in New York City is set to open on New Year’s Day, and Governor Andrew Cuomo says it’s a sign of hope in a dark and “traumatic” time.

The first Penn Stations was opened in 1910, and was considered an architectural masterpiece, but it was torn down in 1963, in what most now believe was a terrible mistake.

For the next half of a century, its replacement, one of the main gateways to the City and the busiest in the nation,   was underground, dingy and overcrowded.

Karen DeWitt NYS Public Radio

New York state lawmakers held a special December session Monday to enact new protections for tenants unable to meet rent payments, due to pandemic-related job losses and other financial challenges. 

Matt Ryan New York Now

New York state’s positivity rate for the coronavirus jumped to 8.3%, according to the latest numbers released Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office file photo

Tenants in New York will be granted another reprieve in the new year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, with an extension of an executive order that prevents landlords from evicting tenants who’ve faced financial hardship both during and before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extension, however, may be moot: Democrats in the state Legislature are considering a special session next week to codify and expand a moratorium on residential evictions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a pre-holiday message for New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic: It’s OK to celebrate, but to do it smartly to help prevent the spread of infections.

Cuomo also announced that some fans might be allowed into Buffalo’s Bills Stadium for an upcoming playoff game.

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says some New York hospitals have started testing COVID-19 patients for the presence of a mutated form of the coronavirus discovered in the United Kingdom that has led to a shutdown in that country.

All three airlines that fly from the U.K. to New York have now agreed to test passengers for the virus before they board the planes.

Matt Ryan New York Now

The relief package that Congress approved Monday did not include a financial bailout for states hit hard by the pandemic, leaving New York with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit going into the new year.

The leader of the state Assembly said now is the time to push ahead with new taxes on the wealthiest to start making up for the loss. 

The state’s deficit is at least $8 billion, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget office, though the governor said it could be closer to $15 billion.