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.  

Now that New York state has begun enforcement of its plastic bag ban, after an unsuccessful lawsuit by the plastics industry, the state’s environmental agency and an advocacy group want to know whether stores are complying.

Many of the state’s retail chains have already taken steps to eliminate the single-use plastic bags, which were technically banned since March 1 of this year. Some stores are offering paper bags instead, but many are charging a fee to receive the paper bags.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his vaccination plan for New York, released over the weekend, is preliminary, and much more information is needed to finalize the distribution of the vaccine to New Yorkers when it becomes available. 

Cuomo said his plan, which the federal Centers for Disease Control required all states to submit, is just a first draft of what could happen when the vaccine is finalized. He hopes that will occur over the winter. 

County leaders in New York say they are frustrated over delays by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature to make major decisions about the state’s multibillion-dollar budget gap.

They're also asking for more cooperation in carrying out key functions during the COVID-19 pandemic, like testing and tracing. 

Matt Ryan New York Now

The coronavirus infection rate has been creeping up in New York, though it still remains well below the rates in most other states. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is arguing, though, that 20 COVID-19 hot spots in New York should not count against the state’s overall low numbers. 

Cuomo, in his daily briefings with reporters, has offered two sets of numbers lately. One set is what the virus transmission rate is overall in the state. The other is what the rate would be if 20 areas identified as hot spots were not counted.

Governor Cuomo's office

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has written a letter on behalf of all the states’ governors asking President Donald Trump to form a clear plan on how to administer a COVID-19 vaccine when that day comes.

Cuomo, who is head of the National Governors Association, wrote a letter to Trump, asking that the president hold a meeting with the country's governors to talk about how to make sure a national vaccination campaign is “implemented smoothly and efficiently." 

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

A small band of protesters gathered Wednesday outside the State Capitol to demand that Gov. Andrew Cuomo loosen restrictions for visiting residents at nursing homes. But so far, the governor shows no sign of changing the rules. 

The 50 or so protesters include family members of those who died in the nursing homes during the height of the first wave of the pandemic in New York in the spring.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is threatening to withhold state funding from schools in COVID-19 hot spot areas that are remaining open despite the governor’s closure orders.

Cuomo said he will also hold back state funds from local governments that fail to adequately police the areas identified by health officials as COVID-19 clusters.  


Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new book was released Tuesday, and it simultaneously serves as a definitive chronicle of decisions made by officials in New York to address the COVID-19 pandemic and a sharp rebuke to the federal government’s perceived failure to act.

Cuomo’s noted, more than once, that the book is not a signal that the pandemic is over, but a retelling of the height of the crisis in New York, where the virus has killed more than 33,000.

New York Now

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many voters to choose to cast their ballots by mail this year.

In New York, every eligible voter can vote by absentee ballot if they are worried about the virus.  But the rules are still a bit complicated.

Karen DeWitt sat down with the League of Women Voters' Jennifer Wilson to sort it all out.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

October brings colder weather in the Northeast, and restaurants that have survived by offering outdoor dining during the 2020 summer of COVID-19 are bracing for a long and perhaps lonely winter of limited indoor dining.