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.  

Matt Ryan New York Now


Survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their allies celebrated the one-year anniversary of passage of the Child Victims Act in New York, but they say they want the law updated to allow some adult victims more time to file lawsuits. 

The law, approved in late January 2019, allows survivors to file criminal charges against their alleged abusers until they reach the age of 28. They can pursue civil lawsuits until the age of 55.


A lack of information on how Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to cut billions out of state-funded health care programs led to some tense moments at a legislative budget hearing Wednesday. 

Cuomo, in his budget address, said he will convene a commission to decide how to cut $2.5 billion in Medicaid spending to help close a $6 billion budget gap without harming recipients.

"It will have zero impact on beneficiaries," Cuomo said on Jan. 21.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News


Backers of legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana in New York rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday, but some key differences among lawmakers might hold up passage. 

The rally was organized by advocacy groups, including the Drug Policy Alliance and chapters of the New York Civil Liberties Union. They said momentum is growing in 2020 to enact a law to allow adult New Yorkers to buy cannabis for recreational use.

The groups also said the plan needs to include funding for communities that suffered disproportionately during marijuana prohibition.

Matt Ryan New York Now


The often-lengthy state budget hearings began Monday at the Capitol as legislators heard testimony on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s spending plan and how to close a $6 billion gap. The process, however, was assailed by both the left and the right.

The hearings began with the environmental conservation portion of the budget. But four minutes into state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos’ opening statement, the hearing room erupted into chants as protesters advocating for anti-climate change legislation surrounded Seggos and the lawmakers. 

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a $178.6 billion budget proposal Tuesday. In it, he detailed plans of how to deal with a $6 billion budget deficit largely caused by increased costs for Medicaid, as well as plans to legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis in New York.

The costs of Medicaid have been rising, partly due to more people receiving health care through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and increases in the state’s minimum wage, which has led to higher labor costs.

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ready to release his state budget plan on Tuesday, and public school spending will likely once again be an area of contention, as the state faces a $6 billion budget gap.

It’s been a long-standing tradition in Albany that the governor -- whether a Democrat or a Republican -- lowballs the amount of money needed for public schools while the State Legislature presses to increase that amount. In the end, the two sides usually agree to split the difference. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is announcing that an additional $10 million will be in his new state budget to help with the 2020 national census and to make sure that as many New Yorkers as possible are counted. 

And he’s announced three celebrity chairs of his census commission: Martin Luther King III, "Hamilton" creator and star Lin Manuel Miranda and actor Lucy Liu.  

Cuomo said the additional money will be used to target traditionally hard-to-count populations, including immigrants.

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo releases his state budget plan Tuesday afternoon, and he’s expected to detail how he will close a $6 billion budget gap. With resistance in the State Legislature to new taxes and spending cuts, the governor may have to get creative to thread that needle. 

The budget gap is largely due to overspending on Medicaid beyond Cuomo’s self-imposed 2% per year spending cap. Factors include increases in the minimum wage, resulting in higher labor costs, and a spike in New Yorkers using Medicaid to pay for their health costs, as part of the Affordable Care Act.  

The backlash to New York’s new law that ends most forms of cash bail continues at the Capitol, but the Senate leader said she does not want to rush to change the reforms until they are given a chance to work. 

The law went into effect on Jan. 1.

Republicans, who are in the minority in the Senate, say they are concerned about the growing number of instances of repeat criminal offenders released without bail who have then gone on to commit another offense. 

Office of the State Comptroller

A report by the state Comptroller finds that New York ranks number one in being shortchanged in tax money from the federal government.

A report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli finds New Yorkers gave $26.6 billion more dollars in tax money in 2018 to the federal government than they got back, ranking it 50th among the 50 states.

“We are part of a very small number of states that are net donors to the federal government,” said Di Napoli who said New York’s congressional delegation should push the issue during budget negotiations.