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

Memorial Day weekend begins with beaches opening up, and other tentative steps to restart the economy. Governor Andrew Cuomo says, in his daily corona virus briefing, that the reopenings can be done safely, if people follow the rules.

State beaches reopen Friday, at 50% capacity, with strict social distancing rules. Cuomo tried to tamp down expectations on how many people will actually get a swim in over the holiday weekend.

“Those beaches may reach capacity at 10, 11 o’clock in the morning,” Cuomo said. “So that’s something to take into consideration.”

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has about 10 days before he has to make some big decisions about New York state’s estimated $14 billion budget deficit.

He's hoping that Congress will pass a bailout measure to avert some of the financial pain, but some Republican senators are resisting. 

The governor and State Legislature set up rules for coping with an expected shortfall when they approved this year’s budget plan in early April, as tax collections were plummeting. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Parts of New York state are gradually reopening, with western New York authorized on Monday to join five other regions of the state and begin the first of a four-phase process. The Capital Region will be allowed to begin reopening on Tuesday. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said Monday that churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship are not permitted to reopen, though, until phase 4 is reached. Religious leaders are asking the state for more guidance, and whether -- if they practiced safe social distancing -- they could open sooner than that. 

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s beaches will be open for Memorial Day weekend, along with beaches in New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, but at 50% capacity and with strict rules about social distancing.

The governor says the beaches will open on May 22, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Parking areas will be limited to half of usual capacity, and beachgoers will have to adhere to a number of rules.

Governor Cuomo's office


Several upstate regions of New York are poised to begin reopening Friday. Among them is central New York after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that it can now join the areas that are starting the first phase of a reopening.

The city of Syracuse and surrounding areas, along with New York’s North Country, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Rochester-Finger Lakes area will begin the first phase of economic reopening Friday.

Screenshot from New York State Legislature hearing


The New York State Legislature on Wednesday took one of its first official actions since passing a state budget over a month ago. They held a public hearing -- remotely -- on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses, and how the federal government has responded.

Before they took testimony, the hearing began with a moment of silence for the more than 22,000 New Yorkers who have died from the disease.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that New York’s North Country has met the state’s criteria to begin a phased-in reopening. 

It joins the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, the Southern Tier and the Mohawk Valley to begin reopening manufacturing and construction firms that can do so safely, as early as this weekend.

But Cuomo said people in those regions have to be cautious and heed warnings by White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci about the dangers of reinfection if the reopening is too rapid. He said the data will have to be closely monitored.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging Congress to include money in its next federal aid package to help state governments that are financially decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some Republican senators have resisted the proposal. 

The state’s projected deficit from lost revenue, increased spending on health care, and the economic shutdown due to the pandemic is $61 billion over the next four years. Cuomo is asking the federal government to help make up for that loss.

He said otherwise, he’ll have to slash aid to schools, hospitals and local governments.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

New York is poised for a first step in reopening businesses, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that three regions of the state have met his criteria to begin a slow reopen, starting with some construction and manufacturing businesses, as soon as Friday.

The news comes as the rate of coronavirus hospitalizations (7,226) and the rate of fatalities (161 on Sunday) continue to decline. The numbers are now near what they were on March 19, right before the worst wave of the virus began.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is extending a one-year look-back window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits for an additional five months, to mid-January.

The governor announced the change at his daily coronavirus briefing, where he also said his health officials are looking into a new related illness in children that killed a 5-year-old boy on Thursday.