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.  

State Senate

Democrats who lead the state Senate approved several measures on Thursday to make it easier to vote. But a newly energized Republican minority wanted to talk about other topics, such as worries about undocumented immigrants voting and whether to repeal recently enacted bail reform measures.

On the second day of the legislative session, the Senate lost no time in acting on a number of bills to allow more voter participation. 

Governor Cuomo's office

There was a somber tone to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10th State of the State message in a year where the state is facing a $6 billion deficit and reeling from a recent spate of hate crimes, including a stabbing incident at a rabbi’s house outside New York City.

“It is going to be a challenging year,” Cuomo said Wednesday.

Cuomo said recent events have been frightening, including an earthquake in Puerto Rico, deep and bitter political divides, and the attack on Orthodox Jews celebrating Hanukkah that injured five, one severely.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

The minority party Republicans in the state Assembly have a new leader.

Will Barclay from the Syracuse area replaces Brian Kolb, who resigned after being charged with drunken driving on New Year’s Eve.

GOP members, who hold less than one-third of the total seats in the Assembly, spent less than an hour in a closed-door meeting to elect Barclay as their new leader.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to deliver his State of the State message on Wednesday, at a time when New York faces its worst budget deficit in a decade.

Among some top state Democrats, there are some cracks in the support for criminal justice reforms in 2020 that have eliminated most forms of cash bail. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's attorney general are among those now saying they are open to making some changes. 

Over the New Year’s holiday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s health care providers will see a 1% drop in the reimbursements they receive for the government-funded Medicaid health care program.

It’s part of an effort to reduce a multi-billion-dollar budget gap that the state is facing.

For the next three months, hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers will see a cut in the amount they get from New York state for services billed through the Medicaid program for lower-income New Yorkers.

On Jan. 1, several new laws take effect in New York, including major changes to the criminal justice system.

New York will end cash bail for people accused of nonviolent crimes, and prosecutors will have to promptly turn over to defendants the evidence that they have against them. 

New York state begins the new year with the biggest budget deficit since the Great Recession, estimated at $5 billion to $6 billion. 

Jessica Marshall New York Now

Beginning Jan. 1, some criminal justice law changes take effect in New York that have divided defendants' rights advocates and law enforcement groups. 

New York will end cash bail for everyone accused of a nonviolent crime and adopt new rules in the pretrial discovery process. It will require prosecutors to turn over to defendants all of the evidence that they have against them within 15 days of arrest. 


With support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and many members of the state legislature, 2020 could be the year when New York legalizes the adult use of recreational marijuana.

But the issue has become complicated by a widespread lung ailment linked to vaping. 

A measure to legalize cannabis for adults was proposed in 2019, as part of the state budget. It did not make it into the final spending plan, and it failed to win enough support to pass as a standalone bill in the state Senate.