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NCPR News Staff: Karen DeWitt

NYS Capitol Correspondent
Karen DeWitt has covered state government and politics at the New York State Capitol for public radio for ten years. Before that she worked at WINS, New York. She has also written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life, Empire State Report, and Metroland. E-mail

Stories filed by Karen DeWitt

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The NY Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC): Senator Diane Savino, Senator Tony Avella, Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein, and Senator David Valesky. Photo: IDC
The NY Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC): Senator Diane Savino, Senator Tony Avella, Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein, and Senator David Valesky. Photo: IDC

NY Senate faction leader says his group will maintain independence

Senate Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) Leader Jeff Klein says even though his group now plans to realign with the Democrats in the Senate, he won't rule out working with Republicans in the future.

Senator Klein says the decision by the IDC members to switch allegiances from a coalition with the Republicans to a governing arraignment with the Democrats was all about the issues.  Go to full article
The New York State Senate chamber. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/32051524@N08/5194328403/">JvL</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
The New York State Senate chamber. Photo: JvL, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Deal between Senate factions could give Democrats full control in Albany

Republicans are on the verge of losing control of New York's Senate, with two Democratic factions saying they'll come together in what could be a strong Democratic majority after this fall's elections.

A renegade group of Democrats had joined with Republicans to form a majority coalition two years ago. This new alliance would leave the GOP out of power.  Go to full article
At a pre-K program in New York City. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/10485077@N06/3799027263/">edenpictures</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
At a pre-K program in New York City. Photo: edenpictures, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

NYS "universal pre-K" gets off to a very slow start

Fewer than 20 percent of school districts outside of New York City have expressed interest in expanding their pre-kindergarten programs. Critics say that falls far short of the goals of a program billed in the state budget as universal pre-K, and many schools say that there are too many obstacles in the funding program.

When the state budget was approved back on March 31, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders touted funding for pre-kindergarten that they said could lead to universal pre-K in New York.  Go to full article
Inside the Capitol. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/54021469@N00/394233312/">Holley St. Germain</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Inside the Capitol. Photo: Holley St. Germain, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Reform groups urge "No" vote on redistricting ballot amendment

Government reform groups are beginning their push early to convince voters to reject an amendment on redistricting on the state's November ballot. They say it's a sham that does not offer the changes that it promises.

The government reform groups say Senate and Assembly districts are drawn in New York in a blatantly partisan manner. They used humor to get their point across, conducting what Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group calls the Pablo Picasso-Salvador Dali contest for finding the most creatively designed district.  Go to full article
Senate medical marijuana sponsor Diane Savino discusses successful vote  in the Senate. Photo: Karen DeWitt
Senate medical marijuana sponsor Diane Savino discusses successful vote in the Senate. Photo: Karen DeWitt

Medical marijuana passes NYS senate 49-10

The sponsor of the successful medical marijuana measure in the Senate, Sen. Diane Savino, says she's "gratified" by the larger-than-expected number of yes votes, and hopes the new law ha wider repercussions.  Go to full article
Albany from above. Photo: <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Albany.jpg">Karthik Chinnathambi</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Albany from above. Photo: Karthik Chinnathambi, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Heroin, medical marijuana, Common core dealt with, but other items tabled at end of NYS legislative session

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed on three major items at the close of the legislative session. But they also left a lot of unfinished business behind.  Go to full article
Legally-grown marijuana in Colorado, which has legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational uses, with some restrictions. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/scubabrett22/12160800144/in/photolist-jwBhd1-eEry1-dox2X-8gsYdj-51koiE-ceGZCm-jwCr7d-5XFE1D-fxptM4-8pQ4Er-eivcad-ayWTRu-jLumTV-6ViR7N-edyDrn-6ViTMf-4fmvfG-jwCoCA-8BgAwK-77R7k9-abPwwS-bAeUVU-bP9xoe-bAeTKq-bP9xkt-bP9xdk-bP9ytR-bP9ytg-bP9xpK-bAeTMo-bP9xcM-5Z5jud-8Pud4h-fxDMBy-fy9FN-ehh9LL-ndThVi-7CcjxG-nTJH8Z-2bF3M-a36wSo-msKYYx-2Mhic8-ndTJbw-ndTwLq-ntkswf-nw4mt7-7GF9Le-ndTwGZ-bUoG4b">Brett Levin</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Legally-grown marijuana in Colorado, which has legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational uses, with some restrictions. Photo: Brett Levin, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

New York will allow limited medical marijuana under agreement

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature have agreed to a limited medical marijuana program for patients with cancer, AIDS, and childhood seizure disorders. It will not allow the drug to be smoked.

Cuomo, who had expressed reservations about allowing medical marijuana, says the bill will grant sick people access to the drug, while imposing limits that will prevent abuse of marijuana.  Go to full article
Medical marijuana advocates demonstrating in hallway outside Gov. Cuomo's offices. Photo: Karen DeWitt
Medical marijuana advocates demonstrating in hallway outside Gov. Cuomo's offices. Photo: Karen DeWitt

Cuomo, legislative leaders agree on anti heroin bills, still discussing medical marijuana

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders have agreed to a package of bills to combat heroin addiction, and say they are still discussing other issues, including medical marijuana, as the legislative session draws to a close.

Governor Cuomo calls the measures to curb the heroin abuse epidemic his "top priority" for the end of the 2014 session. He says the legislation will require that health insurance companies pay for more treatments.  Go to full article
Sen, Co-Leader Jeff Klein talking with reporters after a closed meeting with medical marijuana bill sponsors. Photo: Karen DeWitt
Sen, Co-Leader Jeff Klein talking with reporters after a closed meeting with medical marijuana bill sponsors. Photo: Karen DeWitt

Sponsors of medical marijuana bill hold private meeting with Governor Cuomo

Sponsors of a medical marijuana bill continued to negotiate with Governor Cuomo over the Governor's objections to many of the measure's provisions, but say they are hopeful that a deal can be reached in the next couple of days.

Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein is optimistic about the chances for a medical marijuana law in New York .  Go to full article
Inside the Capitol. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/54021469@N00/394233312/">Holley St. Germain</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Inside the Capitol. Photo: Holley St. Germain, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Legislative session could end with a whimper

The legislative session is scheduled to end on Thursday, and many issues remain unresolved. But a low key end of session might not matter much to New York's top political figures.

The chances of passage for several key issues promoted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, including a Women's Equality Act and public campaign finance appear dim, due to opposition from Senate Republicans.  Go to full article

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