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.  

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

State lawmakers returned to session this week with plans to vote on bills aimed at helping New Yorkers cope with all of the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Assembly and Senate began by convening committee meetings for the first time in several weeks. 

But unlike the crowded rooms of the past that were full of staffers, lobbyists and journalists, the gatherings were mostly done remotely. 

Assembly committees shared a feed to hold a succession of meetings, providing audio, but not video, of the proceedings. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

A new poll finds most New Yorkers are comfortable with the pace of the reopening of the economy, even though many are taking a financial hit due to the shutdown. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that he’ll meet with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to discuss an infrastructure program with federal funds for state projects, including repairing deteriorating commuter rail tunnels under the Hudson River.

Cuomo said he believes the state has finally “turned the page” on the COVID-19 pandemic for now, and it’s time to refocus on "supercharging" the economy. 

Governor Cuomo's office

While Governor Andrew Cuomo has held daily briefings on the corona virus and issued over 250 executive orders, the state legislature has been absent from the Capitol for six weeks. Now, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart- Cousins say they plan to hold committee meetings on May 26th, and convene in  session in the following days to vote on legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Cuomo's office

Memorial Day weekend begins with beaches opening up, and other tentative steps to restart the economy. Governor Andrew Cuomo says, in his daily corona virus briefing, that the reopenings can be done safely, if people follow the rules.

State beaches reopen Friday, at 50% capacity, with strict social distancing rules. Cuomo tried to tamp down expectations on how many people will actually get a swim in over the holiday weekend.

“Those beaches may reach capacity at 10, 11 o’clock in the morning,” Cuomo said. “So that’s something to take into consideration.”

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has about 10 days before he has to make some big decisions about New York state’s estimated $14 billion budget deficit.

He's hoping that Congress will pass a bailout measure to avert some of the financial pain, but some Republican senators are resisting. 

The governor and State Legislature set up rules for coping with an expected shortfall when they approved this year’s budget plan in early April, as tax collections were plummeting. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Parts of New York state are gradually reopening, with western New York authorized on Monday to join five other regions of the state and begin the first of a four-phase process. The Capital Region will be allowed to begin reopening on Tuesday. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said Monday that churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship are not permitted to reopen, though, until phase 4 is reached. Religious leaders are asking the state for more guidance, and whether -- if they practiced safe social distancing -- they could open sooner than that. 

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s beaches will be open for Memorial Day weekend, along with beaches in New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware, but at 50% capacity and with strict rules about social distancing.

The governor says the beaches will open on May 22, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Parking areas will be limited to half of usual capacity, and beachgoers will have to adhere to a number of rules.

Governor Cuomo's office


Several upstate regions of New York are poised to begin reopening Friday. Among them is central New York after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that it can now join the areas that are starting the first phase of a reopening.

The city of Syracuse and surrounding areas, along with New York’s North Country, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Rochester-Finger Lakes area will begin the first phase of economic reopening Friday.

Screenshot from New York State Legislature hearing


The New York State Legislature on Wednesday took one of its first official actions since passing a state budget over a month ago. They held a public hearing -- remotely -- on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses, and how the federal government has responded.

Before they took testimony, the hearing began with a moment of silence for the more than 22,000 New Yorkers who have died from the disease.