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 said Wednesday that many counties in the state with low levels of the coronavirus will be allowed to resume elective surgeries in the coming days.

Cuomo says the counties, all of them upstate, will be permitted to resume the procedures, but only if they can keep 30% of their hospital beds and ICU beds free in case the virus resurges.

“When you cancel elective surgeries, hospitals feel a financial pinch because that’s where they make their money is on elective surgeries,” said Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered more details Tuesday on what needs to be in place before portions of New York state can begin to reopen.

But the governor said partial reopening for now likely won’t include major attractions like the State Fair. 

Cuomo held the briefing at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, one of the regions that has a lower rate of coronavirus infections and may be among the first to reopen after the current restrictions begin to ease after May 15. 

freeimages.com/G. Schouten de Jel

The food supply disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic have led to some dairy farmers dumping some of their milk because they have no place to sell it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will step in to try to get the milk to new markets and to help feed those left jobless from the economic shutdown. 

Dairy farms and milk cooperatives have had to dump millions of pounds of milk in the past few weeks. It was supposed to go to restaurants, school cafeterias and other business customers who no longer need the milk because of the state-ordered closures. 

Matt Ryan New York Now

New York’s finances will suffer for some years to come, and there are likely to be big cuts to schools and local governments because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released over the weekend by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget office.

A new poll from Siena College finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 77% approval rating is at a record high, and that New Yorkers by a 3-to-1 margin trust Cuomo over President Donald Trump to get them through the pandemic.

New York state’s plastic bag ban took effect on March 1, but like much of society, it is now on “pause” as supermarkets and retailers that remain open grapple with other issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

But advocates of the ban and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation say it will get back on track.

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget office is due to release an updated financial report, and the numbers are grim.

Cuomo said the pandemic and the resulting “economic tsunami” caused by stay-at-home orders has meant a 14% drop in state revenues to $13.3 billion, which is projected to total $61 billion over the next four years.  

“And what you are going to see is what we expected,” Cuomo said.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will send absentee ballot applications to all eligible state voters for the June 23 primary to give them the option of voting by mail if they don’t feel comfortable going to the polls in person. 

New York has strict rules on when a person can vote by absentee ballot. But Cuomo recently issued an executive order allowing people affected by COVID-19, or who are worried about getting the disease, to vote by mail.

Governor Cuomo's office

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s opening an investigation of the state’s nursing homes that might have violated rules regarding how to care for COVID-19 patients.

The announcement comes as the governor said a random testing of 3,000 New Yorkers found 13.9% of them had antibodies for the coronavirus. That likely means they've been exposed to the virus and fought off an infection.  

Cuomo said the tests were conducted in 40 grocery stores in 19 counties across the state earlier in the week. 

Matt Ryan New York Now

A report by the State’s Comptroller finds the state might run out of cash to meet its payments as early as next month, and faces an immediate gap of $9 to $10 billion dollars, now that the tax deadline has been extended until July 15th. WXXI's Karen DeWitt spoke to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli about a crisis that he says is worse than the Great Recession more than a decade ago.