Mary Wilson

Capitol Reporter

Mary Wilson is the state Capitol reporter for Pennsylvania's public 
radio stations, including WESA in Pittsburgh, WITF in Harrisburg and WHYY in Philadelphia. Mary came to the post after a year being a catch-all staffer for a Maryland politician.

Before that, she was a part-time show host and cub reporter at WFUV-FMin New York City. She covered the closing of the old Yankee stadium andnarrated the scene of Harlem on the night of the 2008 presidentialelection. Mary graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx withmajors in history and Italian.

George (Patti) Larcher / flickr

The deadline to register to vote in the November election is October 5.

Stragglers can still sign up by going online. This marks the first year that eligible voters can register via the web, as long as PennDOT has a record of the applicant's signature.

For more than a dozen school districts in Pennsylvania, the state budget impasse already has a cost: $11 million in interest payments just to stay open.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale trumpeted the debtors’ names Tuesday as part of his mission to deliver regular updates on how schools are faring as Harrisburg’s gridlock stretches on. DePasquale said his office has already heard from more than half of the state’s 500 school districts.

Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Tom Wolf kept his promise to veto a short-term funding package on Tuesday, killing the stopgap plan he derided two weeks ago as an ill-suited solution to the state’s long-term problems. 

Supporters of medical marijuana are keeping the pressure on state House lawmakers who have remained cool to efforts to legalize the substance.

Advocates are pushing a state proposal to make caregivers a more central part of a patient’s care.

A spokesman for state Attorney General Kathleen Kane says he doesn’t know when she will follow through on her latest promise to release all uncovered pornographic e-mails exchanged with current and former employees of the Office of Attorney General.

The state Senate has passed what may be a doomed interim state budget meant to get public money flowing again to schools, social services providers, and a variety of other projects.

Debate wrapped up quickly Friday as the Republican-controlled Senate voted along party lines to pass the stopgap budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto the package, criticizing the GOP’s concern for schools and social services as disingenuous.

Mary Wilson / WITF

  The state is trying to drum up interest in discounted phone service for the commonwealth’s neediest people.

More than 900,000 Pennsylvania residents signed up last year for the federal program known as Lifeline. Based on statewide poverty statistics, state officials believe many more people are eligible.

A coalition of social services providers is suing Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration for leaving them high and dry during the state budget impasse.

The Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, which represents more than 100 private providers of child welfare and juvenile justice services in Pennsylvania, said the legal challenge filed Tuesday is an attempt to protect its members’ funding during state budget fights in the years to come.

The tone of state budget talks hit a new low this week as the governor promised to veto a stopgap measure meant to get state funding flowing to entities facing their own fiscal cliff due to the months-long standoff over a state budget.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said a deal still seemed distant after a Wednesday meeting with Democrats and the governor. As a result, he said, Republicans would go ahead with a short-term proposal to fund schools and social services through October.

Officials debated in state court Wednesday whether pornographic e-mails exchanged by state employees on state computers should be released to the public.

Lawyers for the state Office of Attorney General told a panel of Commonwealth Court judges that the sought-after smutty exchanges among current and former OAG employees are not public records because they don’t document official agency activity.

“The question is: Was it sent in connection with commonwealth business?” said John Knorr III, Chief Deputy Attorney General, who argued on behalf of the office in court.

A group of state House lawmakers tasked with finding a way “get to yes” on medical marijuana legalization is winding down its work. A spokeswoman for Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) said recommendations would be delivered to GOP House Majority Leader Dave Reed in the next few weeks.

The House GOP’s working group was pulled together after a medical cannabis legalization measure passed the state Senate in May.

Republican state lawmakers could put Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in a tricky spot with their next budgetary maneuver: they say they’ll be back in session this month to approve a temporary spending plan.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has received a renewable $900,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will go toward battling the state's prescription drug overdose epidemic.

Heroin and opioid overdose are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania. More people die from overdose than do from car accidents -- 2,400 in 2013 alone.

Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf, called the overdoses “a critical public health crisis.”

Aapo Haapanen / Flickr

  A legal battle over Gov. Tom Wolf’s seven-month death penalty moratorium lands in the state’s Supreme Court on Thursday.

The court’s ruling could disrupt Wolf’s plans to continue issuing reprieves to death row inmates, at least until a state task force finishes studying capital punishment in Pennsylvania. 

Stewart Black / Flickr

  Pennsylvania is bracing for a possible outbreak of what was once called the “fowl plague” – a highly contagious form of bird flu that devastated entire poultry flocks in the Midwest this spring.

The commonwealth saw severe cases of the bird flu in the 1980s. Since then, commercial poultry operations have become more complex, and keeping backyard hens is more popular –- as evidenced, perhaps, by a certain website purveying in rent-a-chickens.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell has a little advice for embattled state Attorney General Kathleen Kane: take a leave of absence.

“Let someone in her office be the one to call the shots for the attorney general’s office while she was getting ready for trial, preparing for trial with her lawyers, etcetera,” said Rendell on WITF’s Smart Talk on Wednesday.

Top state Democrats have called on Kane to resign in light of the criminal charges filed against her last month. Rendell said Kane could stop short of that while placating some of her critics.

An activist who has crusaded for a year to learn who exchanged pornographic e-mails within the state Office of Attorney General says he might be about to make headway — thanks to public comments made by Kathleen Kane herself.

Simon Campbell, founder of the Bucks County group Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, has been angling to uncover the identities of all the state employees who sent or received smutty e-mails found on OAG servers and computers. Kane's office unearthed the messages but fought numerous requests for their full release, citing union contracts and employee privacy.

The state’s fiscal watchdog issued another growl about the state’s absentee spending plan on Tuesday.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat, said routine audits of school districts, starting now, will also consider the ramifications of the state budget impasse – like schools’ borrowing costs.

Finishing audits of all 500 school districts will take years, he said, so there's no exact estimate for statewide school costs to schools. That's why DePasquale said he’s putting negotiators on notice now. 

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania is becoming the 23rd state to allow its residents to register as voters by going online.

The paper registration forms aren't going anywhere, but now Pennsylvanians will have the option of online voter registration due to policy change by the Wolf administration.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

State budget negotiations are on ice as Gov. Tom Wolf considers the most significant offer from Republicans since talks stalled in June.

The proposal would let Wolf spend more money on schools, one of his campaign promises. But it would also scale back future pension benefits, delivering a kick in the pants to public sector labor unions, who have panned the deal.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The state Supreme Court has unsealed a trove of documents that show as early as last November Attorney General Kathleen Kane was claiming that the investigation into her stemmed from her efforts to release pornographic and insensitive e-mails exchanged by her critics.

The documents unsealed by the high court Wednesday show that Kane made multiple appeals to quash the investigation into her, saying it was “trigged” by two critics and former prosecutors in her office: Frank Fina and Marc Costanzo.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The state’s embattled attorney general says her office may reconsider its refusal to release the same pornographic e-mails she says are at the root of criminal charges against her.

In a written statement released Tuesday, Attorney General Kathleen Kane suggested there may be a change in her office’s position against releasing pornographic e-mails it found were exchanged by current and former employees.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Many Pennsylvania public schools are starting the school year with a worried eye toward Harrisburg.

Some are putting off bills. Some plan to borrow money. But Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said Monday he's not sure how much longer the budget impasse can continue before school operations are compromised.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

If pornographic office e-mails are at the root of the criminal charges filed against Attorney General Kathleen Kane, new court orders unsealed Tuesday show that she could have released them, in full, as early as last December.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court unsealed two orders Tuesday in response to Kane's comments last week that a grand jury judge is blocking her efforts to expose a chain of raunchy e-mails exchanged by prosecutors and judges.

Matt Rourke / AP Images

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane is facing questions for using the trappings of her public office in the course of defending herself against criminal charges.

Dauphin County activist Gene Stilp filed a complaint to the state Ethics Commission Monday, requesting an investigation into Kane’s use of public resources for what he sees as her own personal gain.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A tentative proposal from Gov. Tom Wolf to change state pensions isn't sparking much agreement.

The governor has floated a "scenario" under which he would scale back retirement benefits for state and school workers, but top Republicans say the changes don't go far enough.

"It's just not even in the ballpark of what we would think we could acceptably sell to Republican members in the Senate," said Drew Crompton, chief counsel to GOP Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A close confidant to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane remains on the job, despite having been criminally charged for allegedly accessing secret grand jury information on her behalf.

Patrick Reese, a special agent who is part of Kane’s protection detail, was charged by Montgomery County prosecutors over a week ago in connection to the criminal case against Kane.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A grand jury judge says he won't take any legal action responding to Attorney General Kathleen Kane's public plea to release pornographic e-mails she says are being suppressed by people who want to force her from office.

"Kane has not filed with me any petition, pleading, motion or other request for Court action," said Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter in a written statement. "Accordingly, I will take no official action at this time."

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The engineers of the current state budget impasse are sitting down for another design meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The new fiscal year began July 1. Negotiations between the governor and top lawmakers have been held about once a week since then.

"We had productive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai after a budget confab last month. "We really rolled up our sleeves."