Karen DeWitt

Albany Reporter

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.

DeWitt is a past recipient of the prestigious Walter T. Brown Memorial award for excellence in journalism, from the Legislative Correspondents Association, and was named Media Person of the Year by the Women’s Press Club of New York State.

DeWitt has served as a panelist for numerous political debates, including the 2014 gubernatorial debate sponsored by WNED|WBFO

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Governor Andrew Cuomo is telling local governments they are on their own when it comes to coping with a recently imposed property tax cap, saying it’s up to county and city government leaders to make the hard choices, and to stop complaining.

Local government leaders have been warning that the 2% property tax cap imposed by Governor Cuomo and the legislature last year will severely squeeze their finances, and that key programs  and workers will have to be cut.

The state’s environmental commissioner for the first time commented in depth about a new health review that has once again delayed a decision on hydro-fracking in New York.

But Commissioner Joe Martens says there are still some unanswered questions.

Commissioner Martens comments are the first after a tersely worded two paragraph statement issued in late September .

It said the State’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, would conduct a review of health impact data compiled by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The State Capitol has been the scene of numerous noisy demonstrations on hydro- fracking, but this time it was supporters of gas drilling who were doing the protesting.

A crowd of several hundred, chanting “no more delays” gathered for a march and rally outside the State Capitol.

They include land owners in the Marcellus Shale region with gas drilling leases and workers who live in New York but have jobs that are dependent on gas drilling elsewhere.

WBFO News file photo

Profits on Wall Street are going to be up this year, according to a new report from the State Comptroller, but are still below their pre-recession highs.

The report also finds fewer job losses in the securities industry, but still many economic uncertainties ahead.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli projects that the New York City based securities industry will earn $15 billion  in 2012. That’s nearly double last year’s profits, but still below the rates in the boom years before the 2008 market crash.  

A group of public health experts are questioning whether Governor Cuomo’s health officials can do a credible job reviewing a health study on fracking, saying independent reviewers would be a better choice.

Governor Cuomo’s Health Commissioner is conducting a health impact review on whether hydro fracking can be done safely in New York.

An environmental group, out with its annual voters’ guide, is grading state lawmakers harshly this year.

Environmental Advocate’s Rob Moore says the 2012 legislative session was a disappointment for environmental and other issues.

“This was one of the least productive legislative sessions generally, in history,” said Moore. “That unproductive nature extended to the environment, as well.”

WBFO News file photo

The Cuomo Administration has announced two developments that could delay the start of hydraulic fracturing in New York, and is leaving supporters and opponents with many unanswered questions.

In the past ten days, Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation has taken two significant steps that are likely to push off any permits for natural gas drilling into at least the New Year.  

WBFO News photo

Governor Cuomo has announced he’s holding a wine and beer summit at the Capitol in October, to improve business opportunities for the state’s wineries and craft breweries.

The announcement follows a yogurt summit held in August. The governor says the meeting will “force” numerous discussions between wineries and craft brewery business owners and his administration to help promote the industries and boost tourism.  

“The wine industry in New York is very important,” said Cuomo. “It’s a big tourism engine for us.”

Governor Cuomo has crossed party lines and offered a political endorsement to Republican Senator Roy McDonald, who lost a primary this month after voting to support same sex marriage.

Cuomo, in a letter released by his staff, tells Senator McDonald that it’s “evident” that he “paid a price” for his convictions when McDonald agreed to be one of four Republican votes in the Senate to ensure passage of Cuomo’s gay marriage bill.  

Governor Cuomo says he supports his Administration’s internal health review on hydrofracking in New York, and he says it could even hasten the gas drilling process in the state, should fracking ultimately be approved.

The governor says he supports his environmental commissioner’s decision not to launch an independent health study, and to instead have the administration’s health department review new health assessment data compiled by the Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The natural gas industry sees hopeful signs in a new poll that finds more New Yorkers now support hydrofracking.

A Quinnipiac University survey also finds upstaters, who live where the gas drilling process would occur, back fracking in greater numbers.

The Quinnipiac poll finds that by a narrow four point margin, New Yorkers surveyed believe that the economic benefits of natural gas drilling, including job creation, outweigh the potential harmful environmental effects. Quinnipiac’s Mickey Carroll says opinion is still somewhat evenly divided.   

Karen Dewitt

A unanimous vote by the state ethics board appears to launch a full investigation into the Assembly’s sexual harassment scandal.  

In the second meeting in less than a week, the Joint Public Ethics Commission bent its own rules and announced that a vote had been taken to launch what it called a “substantial” investigation. 

The disclosure followed an hour long public debate, where commissioners of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver complained that the commission’s secrecy and leaks to the media were impugning the integrity of the ethics panel.  

Governor Cuomo, addressing New York’s delegation in Charlotte, harshly denounced Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget and other GOP policies.

The rhetoric stands in sharp contrast to his cordial relationship with legislative Republicans in the  state Capitol.

Cuomo delivered a spirited repudiation of Ryan’s fiscally conservative budget policies, blending sarcasm with outrage to enthusiastic New York Democrats.  

“First they say ‘well, we have economic trouble’,” said Cuomo. “Thank you for that startling revelation. I wouldn’t have known.”

The state’s Republican Party is turning a familiar Democratic Party accusation back against the Assembly Democrats, who are involved in a sexual harassment scandal.  

New York’s GOP Chair Ed Cox says it’s the Assembly Democrats who are engaging in a “war on women”, after  Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez was censured for sexual harassment, and it was revealed that the Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had authorized a previous secret settlement against two other alleged Lopez victims.

WBFO News photo

The state’s ethics board held a closed door meeting Tuesday and is believed to be discussing whether to investigate Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez and possibly the Assembly Speaker, over a sexual harassment scandal.

WBFO News photo

The state’s ethics board has called a special meeting immediately after Labor Day.

The news comes after Governor Cuomo and others have called for an investigation of a sexual harassment scandal in the State Assembly.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, has called a special meeting for Tuesday, September 4th.  

There are signs that the state’s finances are getting healthier, but local governments in New York continue to flounder.

Governor Cuomo and his budget director, Robert Megna announced that the state finally got an upgrade in an assessment from a major rating agency. Standard and Poors changed the state’s outlook from “stable” to “positive”.   

Megna says he hopes that lays the groundwork for an improvement in the state’s credit rating, which has been ranked as weak for decades.

Over the course of three days, an Assemblyman has been censured by the chamber’s ethics committee for sexual harassment, and a State Senator has been arrested on corruption charges.  

The two join the long list of lawmakers who have been indicted, arrested, convicted and jailed in the past several years.

Photo by Marie Cusick/WMHT

Anti-fracking advocates rallied in Albany to try to convince Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban the natural gas drilling process in New York. The advocates included actress Debra Winger, filmmaker Josh Fox and environmental leader Bill McKibben,  as well as activists from communities across New York’s Southern Tier.  They asked Governor Cuomo to tell his environmental officials not to go ahead with fracking  in New York.Debra Winger appealed to the appearance- conscious Cuomo’s sense of legacy, and asked him to rethink his plans, and “push the rest button”.Author and activist Bill McKibben says t

The contentious issue of hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, in New York State continues to divide residents. 

A recent Siena College poll shows likely voters are evenly divided on whether they want fracking allowed in the state: 39 percent support it, 38 percent are opposed, while 23 percent either have no opinion or don't have enough information. 

"You also have to look at this from a regional perspective," said Siena pollster Steve Greenberg.

Governor Cuomo and his aides have announced a plan to increase voter registration, allowing on line vote registration for the first time, by linking the process to Internet applications for drivers licenses.

Up until now, New Yorkers could register to vote when they went to their local Department of Motor Vehicle Office to update their driver’s license, or non-driver’s ID card. Now, they will be able to complete the process on line.

The move was praised by representatives of government reform groups, including the League of Women Voters’ Sally Robinson.

Karen Dewitt

Governor Cuomo announced he’s easing some environmental regulations so that dairy farmers can more easily own more cows. 

Cuomo chaired a  public meeting that brought together dairy farmers, yogurt makers and an array of state officials.  He says with the phenomenal success of Greek yogurt, the struggling upstate economy has been presented with one of the best entrepreneurial opportunities in “30 or 40 years”.

“When you see an opportunity, grab it,” Cuomo advised. “And make it happen.”

The rapid growth Greek yogurt has revived the dairy industry in New York. 

The head of the State’s Republican Party predicts that the choice of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate will be helpful in some portions of New York State.

New York’s GOP Chair Ed Cox says Ryan’s position as number two on the Republican ticket in November could aid the GOP congressional candidates around the state, who are already identified as strong fiscal conservatives.

“I think it’s going to play very well in New York State, “said Cox.  

The New York State Thruway Authority begins hearings later this week on whether to impose a nearly 50 percent toll hike on trucks that use the toll highway.

Many who plan to attend the hearings will testify against the idea, saying it’s bad for business.

Business groups, along with the trucking industry, have objected, saying it would increase prices for every company that relies on trucks for shipping.

Photo NYS Court of Appeals Website

In the next couple of years, Governor Andrew Cuomo may have the chance to shape the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, as several judges reach the end of their terms or the mandatory retirement age. It’s an opportunity no New York governor has had in a generation. 

In the next couple of years, Governor Andrew Cuomo may have the chance to shape the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, as several judges reach the end of their terms or the mandatory retirement age. It’s an opportunity no New York governor has had in a generation.

The American Cancer Society has given New York State a mixed report card when it comes to cancer prevention. 

The group says the most glaring error is the lack of investment in anti-smoking campaigns.

The annual report card from the American Cancer Society rates states on how well they are doing to prevent cancer through encouraging cancer screenings, banning smoking from public places, and smoking prevention programs.

In the wake of increased gun violence in New York and two mass shootings in the nation in the last few weeks, a state senator is proposing stricter gun laws that he says could give New York the toughest gun laws in the country.

Senator Mike Gianaris says he’s working on a package of bills that would limit gun purchases by New Yorkers and help curb what he says is growing  gun violence in the state and the nation.

“It’s certainly a matter of pressing urgency,” said Gianaris, who says gun violence in New York City is up 12% over last year.

Governor Cuomo defended his administration against criticisms that he has not been transparent enough, saying he’s trying to do more.

Governor Cuomo defended his record of releasing documents and other information to the public, saying his administration has taken “unprecedented steps” and has gone to “exorbitant” levels to communicate.  Cuomo was the target of newspaper editorial recently that criticized him for being secretive and controlling in his handling of archive files during his time as Attorney General, among other things.

A report from the State Comptroller finds local governments are struggling financially with around 10 percent running deficits or suffering from cash flow problems.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli finds that of more than 4000 local governments and school districts, 300 report budget deficits, and 100 don’t have enough cash on hand to pay all of their bills. Many municipalities that are in the black are only keeping afloat financially by spending down their reserves.

WBFO News photo

Governor Cuomo says he’s starting  a new effort to push campaign finance reform in New York’s elections.

Governor Cuomo pledged during his election campaign that he would work toward reforming the state’s campaign finance system, which contains loopholes that permit nearly unlimited amounts of money to be given to candidates.   The governor listed public financing of campaigns as a goal in his State of the State message in January, but then failed to actively pursue the topic. The governor says there was a reason.

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