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.  

Karen DeWitt / WXXI News

A proposal in the state Senate to roll back part of the state’s recently enacted bail reforms produced an angry backlash from supporters of the law, which took effect Jan. 1 and ended most forms of cash bail for nonviolent crimes in New York.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News


Bravo star Andy Cohen and comedian Michelle Buteau are among those advocating for New York to adopt a law allowing paid gestational surrogacy. But pockets of opposition remain.

Assembly sponsor Amy Paulin and Senate sponsor Brad Hoylman hosted a panel Tuesday that featured Cohen and Buteau, who each have had to leave the state to have children through surrogacy.

Matt Ryan New York Now

New York’s attorney general has filed papers in a lawsuit against the federal government for preventing New Yorkers from enrolling or re-enrolling in the federal government's Trusted Traveler programs, aimed at making border crossings faster and easier.  

The Trump administration has said it needs to cut New Yorkers off from the programs -- including Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST -- because the state recently enacted a law to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Matt Ryan New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that New York is suing the federal government over the decision to ban state residents from travel services programs that expedite travel across borders, including Global Entry and NEXUS cards.

The Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday that it was no longer allowing New Yorkers to apply for expedited travel services to make it through customs faster at major airports and across the Canadian and Mexican borders. Those who are already enrolled in the programs can continue to use them until they expire but cannot renew them. 

Matt Ryan New York Now

State officials are reacting to the news that the federal Department of Homeland Security is ending an expedited travel pass known as Global Entry for New Yorkers crossing into Canada or Mexico or arriving home to an airport from a foreign country.  

Global Entry, part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service, allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to get expedited clearance through automatic kiosks at select airports upon arrival into the United States.  

Karen DeWitt

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a commission to look at improving conditions for workers in the so-called gig economy, where people work job to job with few employment rights.

But some workers say they are worried that the changes could actually harm their ability to earn money. 

Joshua McFee is a professional wrestler. His ambition is to be signed with a major television company and make it big.

“And then that’s your living,” McFee said.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

The fight over recently enacted bail reform heated up at the Capitol on Tuesday, with dueling events by police and activists that at times centered on charges of racism surrounding a Facebook page that calls for the law to be repealed.

Republican lawmakers and law enforcement groups went first. Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan was joined by hundreds of police in blue uniforms, lined up in rows on the pink sandstone steps of the State Capitol’s grand staircase.

“You are less safe today than you were six months ago,” Flanagan said.

A bill in the state Legislature to ban the sale of some animals, including puppies and kittens, at pet stores is gaining support.

Backers say it’s a way to put the notorious puppy mills out of business. But some independent pet store owners say they are being unfairly punished for the unethical practices of others.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

The ban on single-use plastic bags at supermarkets and other shops takes effect in just over a month. Supporters say the state’s environmental agency has not done enough to prepare the public for the shift. 

After March 1, New Yorkers will need to get into the habit of bringing reusable bags with them to the grocery store and to other retailers like Target and Walmart. 

Dan Clark/New York Now


Republican state lawmakers will be holding roundtable forums around the state to discuss the fallout from the state's newly enacted criminal justice reforms that ended most forms of cash bail for nonviolent crimes.

The changes to the bail system have led to a backlash among police and prosecutors, who cite examples of defendants with multiple criminal convictions being freed on their own recognizance.

Republican state lawmakers have highlighted the issue, saying it's an example of overreach by the all-Democratic state Legislature.