WXXI AM News

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

While the outcome of the presidential election has been the focus this week, the coronavirus pandemic has not taken a break.

It’s on the rise in New York, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s considering placing new restrictions on portions of western and central New York, and the Rochester region, and has declared a town along the Connecticut border as a hot spot.

Cuomo said the rate of the virus is climbing in the Buffalo area, where it has risen to 3.1% in Erie County, including the city of Buffalo, and suburbs of Tonawanda, Hamburg, and Orchard Park.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’d wait until after the general election before deciding how to close the state’s multibillion-dollar budget gap, hoping that Democratic wins for president and the U.S. Senate might lead to a larger federal relief package for blue states.

Now that Election Day has come and gone, and with the most likely scenario a President Biden but a Republican-led U.S. Senate, the governor and the State Legislature will have to soon make some big decisions.

wnyc.org

Proponents of legalizing marijuana for adult use in New York were handed good news Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said the state’s massive budget deficit heading into next year will likely be a catalyst for the drug’s legalization in the coming months.

"I think this year it is ripe because the state is going to be desperate for funding. Even with Biden, even with the stimulus, we're still going to need funding,” Cuomo said. "I think we're going to get there this year."

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

Election Day brought mixed results for Democrats and Republicans in New York’s congressional and legislative races. Republicans were quick to claim victory, but Democrats -- who will remain in the majority no matter the outcomes of contested races -- say the record number of absentee ballots needs to be counted first, and it might take weeks.

Many races have not been called and might not be definitive for weeks. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules in New York state were changed to allow anyone eligible to vote to cast an absentee ballot.

Many New York State Senate races have not been called -- and might not be for weeks, until the record number of absentee ballots cast this year are counted. 

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all eligible voters were allowed to cast mail-in ballots. They have not yet been counted, and may not be for several days. 

The results of early voting and in-person voting favor Republicans in five contested seats: on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley and New York City. Democrats are favored in three districts in the Rochester and Buffalo areas.    

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed Monday that the Trump administration was seeking to use information related to recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine to target undocumented individuals for deportation, but a federal agency says the data wouldn’t be used for that purpose.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a document sent to the nation’s governors, said that data would be used solely for tracking vaccine administration.

Voters in New York who have not cast their ballots early in person or by mail go to the polls Tuesday.

While Democrat Joe Biden is heavily favored to win the state over President Donald Trump, there is plenty of action in congressional and state races for voters to weigh in on. 

The 2020 election is the first major one in New York where voters had the choice of casting their ballots early. Polls were open from Oct. 24 through Nov. 1. According to the state Board of Elections, over 2.5 million people took advantage of that option, many waiting in long lines.  

Karen DeWitt

All 212 seats in the New York State Legislature are up for election this year. There are over a dozen contested seats in the state Senate where Democrats are favored to win in many of the contests and potentially gain a supermajority. But Republicans say they hope to gain some seats, too. 

Democrats, who took over the Senate two years ago in a decisive series of wins, are poised to pick up even more seats, said Sen. Michael Gianaris, who is overseeing the Democrats’ strategy.

Karen DeWitt

Most of the attention this election season has been focused on the presidential campaign, but there are also a significant number of New York State Senate races in play.

Democrats need just two more seats to gain a supermajority that could potentially override any vetoes of legislation issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

Protests were held Tuesday in four locations in New York over the growing number of state prison inmates infected with the coronavirus.

There have been outbreaks in at least four prisons: the Greene, Clinton and Cayuga correctional facilities and in Elmira, where over 450 inmates have now tested positive for the virus.

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