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.

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."

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

An activist is petitioning the state’s high court to suspend state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s law license.

Dauphin County resident Gene Stilp filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board in light of criminal charges filed against the attorney general last week.

AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane plans to take reporters’ questions Wednesday, days after she was arraigned on charges including perjury.

Kane has said she’s innocent and will not resign, but she did not address the media when she turned herself in on Saturday.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane was charged Thursday for leaking secret grand jury information to seek revenge on her rivals and then lying about it to a separate investigating grand jury.

A list released recently names Tom Wolf as the most liberal governor in the country. He prefers the term “practical.”

The ranking came from InsideGov, a product of data visualization company FindtheBest. Governors were evaluated using their campaign platforms, public statements, and voting records.

Wolf demurred on his first-place finish, saying on WITF’s Smart Talk that people should judge him by what he’s done.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

Economists are questioning a top Senate Republican’s claims that a new tax proposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would devastate the natural gas drilling industry.

On WITF’s Smart Talk, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati responded to a comment about polls showing the majority of Pennsylvanians support a severance tax on natural gas drillers.

Katie McGinty / facebook

Katie McGinty confirmed Tuesday that she will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

McGinty's announcement was expected. She stepped down from her role as Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff last month after fellow Democrats lobbied her to run.

"As Governor Wolf's chief of staff, I've seen that as he is working hard for our families, we need partners in Washington to help solve problems, not make them worse," said McGinty in a web video released by her campaign.

The governor’s nominee to run the Pennsylvania State Police says one of his goals will be workforce diversity.  

Major Tyree Blocker said Tuesday that, in addition to community outreach and superb training, the state police needs “a long-term recruitment and retention program to attract qualified individuals.”

If confirmed by the state Senate, Blocker would be the second black commissioner of the state police. But he said his concerns about recruitment and retention extend beyond minority and female troopers.

Courtesy photo

Gov. Tom Wolf has picked retired Major Tyree C. Blocker to be the next commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, after the governor’s first nominee failed to win the state Senate’s confirmation in June.

The nomination represents a homecoming for Blocker, a Chester County resident, who spent 30 years with the State Police. Blocker was a trailblazer as an African-American commander and ran the Bureau of Drug Law Enforcement when cocaine was flooding into Pennsylvania.

Twenty-four years ago, in late July, Joyce David was running out of patience.

The commonwealth's budget was five weeks late, and David's husband, a state auditor, hadn't received a paycheck in a month.

"The paralysis stems from a potential tax increase," reported The Associated Press in 1991.

In a bid to establish a safety net for part of the state’s social safety net, the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association is urging state lawmakers to offer some help as the budget impasse hits the one-month mark.

The trade group sent letters to lawmakers in mid-July asking them to consider a short-term funding measure and held a press conference in Pittsburgh last week to drum up support. The group has also suggested that the state provide interest-free loans to social service agencies and nonprofits, “similar to what was done for state employees the last time the budget was not passed on time.”

In a state budget stalemate with few compromises, a left-leaning think tank says focusing on property tax relief could prompt some bipartisan agreement.

Gov. Tom Wolf made his pitch to offer property tax relief central to his proposed budget. In May, the state House passed a GOP-crafted proposal with bipartisan backing.

It included the kind of broad-based tax increases Republican leaders now say they can't support. 

The top House Republican says he'll try to override the governor's budget veto if negotiations don't starting yielding consensus.

"We have to look at overriding if we're not going to have a substantive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai, during his appearance at the Harrisburg Press Club luncheon on Monday.

Turzai said an override should be the "goal" of the GOP-controlled Legislature, though he's not sure if such a move would have the votes to pass.

A forthcoming state Senate plan would curb the use of drones by state and local government.

Several other states have enacted laws limiting the use of drones for surveillance or hunting purposes, and federal rules for civil drones are still in the works. But Pennsylvania has no specific laws governing unmanned aircraft systems.

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County) said he wants to limit government agencies’ use of drones. He’s worried they could violate someone’s right to be protected from search and seizure.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday said goodbye and good luck to his chief of staff for the past six months and turned to his legislative liaison, Mary Isenhour, to step in as his top aide.

Katie McGinty resigned Wednesday and is expected to launch a bid for U.S. Senate in 2016 after being courted intensively by national Democrats. She would not confirm Thursday that she intends to run.

AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File

Katie McGinty, chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, is stepping down, reportedly to prepare for an announcement of her candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Wolf's spokesman said McGinty submitted her resignation Wednesday, first reported by the National Journal. She has been considering a U.S. Senate run for the past few weeks.

McGinty's departure comes as Wolf is still trying to hammer out a budget agreement with a GOP-controlled Legislature. But a feud with Senate Republicans has smoldered for months since she took a shot at their proposal to change public pension benefits in May.

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