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.  

Earlier this week, the state’s public campaign finance commission issued a plan to allow candidates for state offices to receive public matching grants for some campaign donations under $250.

But advocates worry that the final report left out a key legal clause -- and that could jettison the entire program if any one part of it is successfully challenged in court.

It’s called a severability clause, and it’s often included to protect a new law from court challenges.

With New York state facing a $6 billion budget deficit, the speaker of the State Assembly said it might be time to impose new taxes on the rich. 

A multibillion-dollar gap in the Medicaid budget is contributing to the state’s deficit, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he knows it’s going to be a “tough budget year.” 

“For us in the Assembly, we would always rather raise revenue than cut,” Heastie said. “We think that New York has some very generous people, and I’m saying that facetiously, that we would always like to call on them to do more, in that regard.” 

Matt Ryan New York Now

The state's public campaign finance commission voted on a package of bills that would enact a public matching donor program and put strict new limits on the abilities of minor parties to qualify to be on the ballot. The meeting was, at times, interrupted by protesters, who compared the commission's actions to that of President Donald Trump, and some government reform groups say they can't support the final product.   

A commission designing a public campaign finance system for the state’s political races is poised to limit fusion voting, or the ability for candidates to run on multiple party lines. Now the leader of the State Senate, is saying that it would be better if the commission leaves it alone.

WXXI News file photo

A new poll finds Democrat Joe Biden is in the lead in New York among challengers to President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, support for the president among independents is up slightly, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s popularity has slipped.

The Siena College poll finds that the former vice president has a 10-point lead among New York Democrats in the race for president, with 24% saying Biden is their first choice.

Office of the Attorney General

New York’s attorney general is suing Juul, the nation’s largest manufacturer of electronic cigarettes, saying the “deceptive and misleading marketing of its e-cigarettes” has contributed to the youth vaping epidemic in New York state. 

Attorney General Tish James said the skyrocketing increase in the number of teenagers who are vaping has become a major health crisis that needs to be fought on multiple fronts. 

“Today, we are taking action by announcing a comprehensive lawsuit against Juul Labs, Incorporated,” James said at a news conference in Manhattan.  

Mayors across New York state are the latest to express concerns about the bail reform and other criminal justice law changes that take effect in January.

The mayors say they don't have the resources or money to properly carry out the new laws. 

Matt Ryan New York Now

Reform groups say they are dismayed with the direction of a commission appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to implement a public campaign finance system for state elected offices. The commission has just two more meetings before it issues its final report.

Key commissioners appointed by Cuomo are backing individual contribution limits for candidates of up to $25,000, which would be among the highest in the nation. As a comparison, donors to presidential candidates are limited under federal law to contributions of just $5,600.

New York is facing a looming budget deficit because of rising costs and spending on health care in the state’s Medicaid program. It’s increasingly likely that the state will resort to what critics say is a fiscal “gimmick” to keep the rest of this year's and next year’s spending plans in balance.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday signed legislation that allows New York to join nine other states that allow adoptees to receive a certified copy of their birth certificate when they turn 18. 

"Every New Yorker deserves access to the same birth records -- it's a basic human right," Cuomo said in a statement. "For too many years, adoptees have been wrongly denied access to this information, and I am proud to sign this legislation into law and correct this inequity once and for all."