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.  

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he's asking the state Legislature for $40 million in emergency spending to help the state combat the coronavirus.  

The governor said there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in New York so far. Twenty-seven people have been tested, and 26 of those results have been negative. One case is still pending. 

Cuomo said no one should be surprised, though, if it happens.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

New York’s ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other outlets takes effect March 1, and stores that haven’t already made the change are gearing up for it.

But one food store in Albany has never offered its own plastic bags in its 40-year history, and they say no one has been bothered by that.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday planned to offer an amendment to repeal New York’s Green Light law, which permits undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses.

Provided photos

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is decrying a decision by the Trump administration to deny the state a health care grant that the governor say is all about retribution politics.

A new poll out Monday shows support for the state's bail reform plummeting, following weeks of pushback about the new laws from police groups and prosecutors.

On March 1, grocery stores and other retail outlets will no longer be providing shoppers with single-use plastic bags, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is making a last-minute push to get the word out on the plastic bag ban.

Karen DeWitt

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again pressing for a ban on flavored tobacco-based vaping products, saying he hopes a law is passed in the next month. 

Cuomo and his health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, tried to ban the products in New York last fall after a widespread illness associated with vaping killed 60 people, including four in New York.

But the emergency order by a state panel was stopped in court after the vaping industry sued.

The state’s ban on most single-use plastic bags takes effect March 1, and over the holiday weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s environmental agency released regulations on how to carry out the new law.

It’s the second time that the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation chose a holiday to introduce rules that will affect most New Yorkers. The draft regulations for carrying out the plastic bag ban were released on Thanksgiving Eve.

The new rules have left both environmentalists and the plastics industry fuming.


The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy Tuesday under the weight of hundreds of childhood sexual abuse cases filed against the organization.

Seattle-based attorney Jason Amala, who is handling 75 cases in New York, said the news is a mixed bag for his clients.

Amala said the news that the Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy is a form of validation for his clients because the declaration means the national organization is admitting that many of the incidents are real.

The White House/YouTube

Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with President Donald Trump on Thursday at the White House over the federal Homeland Security agency’s decision to stop enrolling New Yorkers in the Trusted Travel programs.

The programs, including Global Entry and NEXUS, expedite border crossings to Canada and Mexico and re-entry to the U.S. from abroad.

The Trump administration says New York jeopardized the safety of the programs because the state closed off access to its DMV database after approving a law to allow undocumented immigrants to receive driver’s licenses.