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


The chairs of the state legislative health committees are proposing a bill that would help protect the privacy of New Yorkers who give personal information to coronavirus contact tracers.

They say without the protections, the contact tracing system -- aimed at curbing the virus and avoiding future shutdowns -- won’t work. 

File photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that visitors will now be allowed for patients at hospitals and residents of group homes for the developmentally disabled. But nursing home visits remain off-limits for now. 

The governor made the announcement as data shows the COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates at their lowest points since the pandemic began. Twenty-four deaths were attributed to the coronavirus on Monday. 

Governor Cuomo's office

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed several police reform measures into law Friday, and says he’ll withhold state funding from local police departments if they do not submit proof that they have worked with their communities to reconfigure their forces. Guests at the ceremony included the mothers of young African American men killed in a police encounter, and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Governor Cuomo's office

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he does not think a statute of the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in New York City’s Columbus Circle should be removed. The governor was asked about it at his daily press briefing Thursday.

“I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus  and some of this acts which nobody would support ,” Cuomo said.

He says the statue has come to represent appreciation for the “Italian-American contribution to New York ”.

“For that reason, I support it,” the governor said.

There’s a growing movement to defund the police, after the death of George Floyd and incidences of police brutality in the nationwide protests that came in the aftermath.   New York State’s leaders say they would rather restructure the forces than cut their budgets.

New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, following 10 days of protests where numerous videos showed incidences of potential police misconduct, announced that he was amending the city’s budget to take funds away from the NYPD’s $6 billion dollar allocation, and put more money into social services including youth programs.

The New York State Legislature Wednesday wrapped up passage of a package of bills on police reform as the Senate Leader delivered a very personal speech on how systemic racism has affected her life.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first African-American woman, and first woman to lead the Senate, said in her speech that she has often talked about her father, a World War II veteran, who served in a segregated U.S. Army. She said that as a mother of three sons and four grandchildren she "lives in worry."

Governor Cuomo's office

The New York Assembly and Senate approved the repeal of a measure that’s been used to shield police disciplinary records from the public. But opponents, including police unions and some Republican senators, says it unfairly singles out officers for scrutiny that other public servants don’t face.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the first African-American to hold that title, has long supported the repeal of the provision in the state’s Civil Rights law known as 50-a, but it has long languished in the legislature.

Karen DeWitt

The New York State Legislature met in session at the state Capitol Monday, to begin work on a package of bills aimed at reforming the police; Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to sign the bills.  If approved, New York would be the first state to act on police reforms since the death of George Floyd.

Karen DeWitt

Governor Andrew Cuomo says the video footage of an elderly white man in Buffalo knocked down by police and left to bleed on the sidewalk made him “sick to his stomach”, and he called for an investigation into criminal charges for the offices involved by the Erie County District Attorney. The governor’s comments come as protests continue in cities around the state with no signs of abating, and the legislature planned to meet Monday to discuss bills dealing with police brutality.

Saturday is the deadline for voters in the state’s school board and school budget elections to get their ballots in the mail.

There will be no in-person voting in the June 9 elections due to safety precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

All voting will be by mail. Under an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all voters are permitted to use the absentee ballot option to cast their votes. Schools, closed for months because of the pandemic, will not have polling places this year.