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.

Pages

Government & Politics
11:03 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Auditor General's Report Puts a Number on Forgone Property Taxes

A report by the state’s auditor general finds that some counties are losing hundreds of millions of dollars from organizations defined as charities and are therefore exempt from property taxes.

Read more
Government & Politics
10:56 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Wolf Hits the Road to Underscore PA’s Money Problems

Governor-elect Tom Wolf is on a statewide tour of sorts, though not exactly spreading a message of cheer as he lays the groundwork for his budget proposal in about three months.

Wolf’s Thursday stop in Kingston, Luzerne County marked the third news conference he’s held this month to talk to reporters about the state’s looming deficit, projected to be about $1.85 billion. Wolf has held similar Q&A sessions in Philadelphia and York.

Read more
Government & Politics
6:14 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Corbett Calls Sting Charges 'Satisfying'

Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday that he's pleased charges have been filed against two additional public officials ensnared by a sting operation that began under his tenure as attorney general.

"It's satisfying to see when there appears to be enough evidence to charge somebody and let a jury make the decision as to whether they're innocent or guilty," said Corbett, speaking on Radio Pennsylvania's Ask the Governor program.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Tue December 16, 2014

State’s Auditor Backs Off Department Of Education

It appears the tensions have subsided, at least for the moment, between the state Department of Education and the commonwealth’s fiscal watchdog.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale blasted the agency earlier this month for being uncooperative with a performance review.

But he said more recently that the department has begun sending timely responses – beginning with one that was due last Tuesday.

“For the first time in the history of our audit of the Department of Education they met a deadline of supplying information,” said DePasquale.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon December 15, 2014

Looming Contract Renegotiation Adds to Budget Murkiness

You can put another thing to the list of reasons drafting the next state budget won't be a cake walk: the commonwealth's labor costs are likely to go up next year.

In recent years, new governors have had to revisit contracts for most of the state's roughly 73,000 employees within their first year in office. The same is true this time.

Most contracts will be up next July, and renegotiation means pay raises and potentially higher costs for employee health care and leave.

Read more
Government & Politics
10:02 am
Thu December 11, 2014

Audit Finds Squishy 'Jobs Created' Figures

The state’s top fiscal watchdog says job-creation programs need more accountability to ensure taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck.

An audit covering 2007 through 2010, before the Corbett administration was in place, found squishy jobs figures among businesses that received nearly $213 million in grants and loans.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said that while nearly 97 percent of promised jobs were delivered by all the state-assisted businesses, the count relies on affidavits from the participating companies, not their actual payroll records.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Wed December 10, 2014

Wolf Sets Up Self-Policing Measures For Inauguration, Transition

Governor-elect Tom Wolf plans to publicize some of the private donations that'll cover the costs of his inauguration day and transition team.

On Tuesday, the transition team scheduled two disclosure dates - January 15 and March 30 - when Wolf will share who ponied up to pay for his inauguration day festivities and his transition team's costs.

It's typical for governors to get private sponsors to underwrite inauguration day, but Wolf said he didn't want to burden taxpayers with his transition, either.

Read more
Government & Politics
7:35 am
Tue December 9, 2014

PA's Political Retreat Begins This Week in NYC

If there's anything you need to call your state lawmaker about, try to do it before Thursday.

That's the day marking the start of this year's annual Pennsylvania Society weekend, a four-day-long retreat centered in Manhattan that attracts the commonwealth's political elite.

Reception hosts and the people on their invite lists defend the weekend as a way to see most of the state's movers and shakers in one convenient location.

Read more
Government & Politics
9:47 am
Fri December 5, 2014

Spokesman: Private Donors Will Bankroll Wolf Transition

In a break with recent history, Governor-elect Tom Wolf's transition will be paid for by private donations, not tax dollars.

A spokesman said Wolf will not take the $250,000 estimated by the state budget secretary to cover the costs of setting up offices for the changeover.

Instead, private donations will be accepted and disclosed on the Wolf's transition website by inauguration day, January 20. Late donations will be disclosed 30 days after the fact, said spokesman Jeff Sheridan.

Read more
Government & Politics
11:05 am
Thu December 4, 2014

State Budget Czar Crosses Fingers for a Few Big Jackpots

Lottery players have been sitting on the sidelines for games like Mega Millions and Powerball, and state bean-counters can tell.

"We're seeing some weakness in our lottery fund revenues, where sales are not keeping pace to projections," said state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby at his mid-year budget briefing Wednesday. "That's certainly a risk that's out there that we need to be mindful of and potentially plan for."

The announcement came as a bit of a surprise, since lawmakers earlier this year made a technical tweak to maximize game profits.

Read more
Government & Politics
10:54 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Budget Report Creates Another Source of Tension in Gubernatorial Transition

A mid-year progress report on the state's budget outlook is giving the outgoing Gov. Tom Corbett and incoming Governor-elect Tom Wolf a chance to put each other on notice, becoming the latest chapter in what's becoming a rocky gubernatorial transition.

With his legally mandated mid-year budget report Wednesday, Budget Secretary Charles Zogby confirmed what independent agencies have said for months: Next year's budget situation will be tough, due to rising mandated costs, weak revenues, and the amount of one-time funding sources used to balance this year's spending plan.

Read more
Government & Politics
7:13 am
Wed December 3, 2014

PA's Latest Legislative Session, By the Numbers

State lawmakers are spending the next month getting ready for the new legislative session beginning this month, lining up committee assignments and preparing the proposals they’ll introduce.

A bird’s eye view of the two-year session that just wrapped up in November finds that a total of 369 proposals were enacted.

House lawmakers introduced 3,610 measures (and 1,091 resolutions), and senators introduced 1,981 proposals (and more than 500 resolutions).

Read more
Government & Politics
7:10 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Late Budget? Bill Would Halt Lawmakers’ Pay

A bipartisan duo of state senators is looking to make it a bit more painful for lawmakers to pass a late state budget — by putting top officials’ pay on the line.

Under the measure backed by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) and Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin), a budget passed after the end of the fiscal year on June 30 would trigger a suspension of pay for state lawmakers, the lieutenant governor, the governor and his cabinet. A similar measure introduced in the latest legislative session suspended pay for only the governor and state lawmakers.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:11 pm
Fri November 28, 2014

End-of-Life Debate Picks Up, But Faces Tall Opposition in PA

Advocates for assisted suicide are promoting legislation that allows doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients who request it.

The national debate was set off earlier this month with the death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard. She publicized her decision to take drugs to end her life after learning she had terminal brain cancer.

Read more
Government & Politics
2:40 pm
Thu November 27, 2014

Between Corbett and Wolf, Medicaid Gets Caught in the Middle

Gov. Tom Corbett and Gov.-elect Tom Wolf are doing a bit of interregnum sparring over how to add hundreds of thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians to the state's Medicaid rolls.

There's a simple question at the center of their disagreement: should the guy in charge push his policies, or defer to the new guy's preferences?

Wolf favors full Medicaid expansion, authorized by the federal health care overhaul and designed to open up federally-covered health care benefits to Pennsylvanians whose income is 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Thu November 27, 2014

Advocates Eye Bank Settlement Money to Fight Blight

A housing advocate says Pennsylvania is falling behind neighboring states in its efforts to combat blight.

Nearly two years ago, the state passed legislation for what's called land banking — a set of new tools for cities and counties to grab up derelict properties and speed their return to productive use. Sometimes that means flipping houses, sometimes it means demolishing a structure to turn the plot into green space or storm water management.

Seven land banks have been established in the commonwealth, but a lack of funding has made the process slow-going.

Read more
Health
2:05 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Doctors Say Awareness Can Lower Infant Mortality Rate

Medical professionals and public officials are making their annual effort to raise awareness of the best ways to ensure infants' safety while they sleep.

Improper sleeping conditions put babies at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Doctors advise parents and other caregivers to place infants alone, on their backs, in an unadorned crib to avoid suffocation.

Read more
Community
2:03 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Hunters Encouraged to Donate Venison

As hunters prepare for the start of deer season on Monday, one group is making its annual pitch to remember Pennsylvania's hungry and donate part of their haul.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest collected nearly 100,000 pounds of donated venison last year for food pantries across the commonwealth.

Advocates say the need for venison is greater this year because of the rising cost of high-protein meats.

Read more
Government & Politics
7:46 am
Mon November 24, 2014

No Timeline For Reopening State Health Centers After Court Ruling

The Corbett administration has to come up with a plan to reopen state health centers after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled it can’t close any of its 60 public health hubs statewide.

“We are still reviewing the ruling in full to determine the implications to the plan moving forward and will be providing additional communication to the public and to our staff as soon as that review is complete,” said Aimee Tysarczyk, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 24, 2014

For County Voting Systems, No Clear Mandate

Most Pennsylvania counties use voting systems that election experts now say are unreliable and a bit shady, but replacing voting technology would be costly, and not all election directors like the look of alternative devices.

Read more
Government & Politics
7:48 am
Wed November 19, 2014

Wolf Fills In More Slots On His Transition Team

Governor-elect Tom Wolf is fleshing out another part of his transition team.

Wolf announced his steering committee Tuesday, a group that includes a former U.S. attorney who worked in Gov. Bob Casey's administration, a diversity consultant, current and former university presidents and the head of the state's largest health care workers union.

Read more
Government & Politics
7:28 am
Tue November 18, 2014

Panel Delivers 130 Ways To Make Elder Pennsylvanians Safer

A panel created to examine how the state can better serve and protect elder Pennsylvanians has finished its work after 18 months with more than 100 recommendations.

The Elder Law Task Force, made up of lawyers, prosecutors, judges, advocates and program administrators, issued its final report Monday. Suggestions range from requiring legal guardians to receive training on ethics and liability to increasing funding for legal aid to low-income seniors.

Read more
Government & Politics
4:58 pm
Mon November 17, 2014

Castille: Review of Inappropriate Emails Is Ongoing

The head of the state’s high court says a review hasn’t wrapped up on any inappropriate emails that may have been exchanged by members of the judiciary.

Chief Justice Ron Castille said Monday that the Judicial Conduct Board is still looking for answers in regard to a batch of 4,000 sexually explicit emails identified by the Office of Attorney General as involving some jurists.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Schools Funding Lawsuit Is On Round Two

When several school districts sued state officials recently over education funding, they re-lit a torch that advocates have been carrying for decades. The lawsuit is a follow-up to a similar legal challenge filed in 1991 and tossed out in 1999, without a resolution.

Judges in the Commonwealth Court and the state Supreme Court said they couldn’t measure whether districts were delivering a sub-par education because of inadequate state funding.

Read more
Government & Politics
12:57 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

State Faces Nearly $2 Billion Deficit Next Year, Fiscal Office Says

Pennsylvania's nonpartisan agency for budget analysis is pinning a number on the anticipated budget deficit next year: $1.85 billion.

The Independent Fiscal Office's figure comes in a report that clearly outlines what has been referred to in generalities since the passage of this year's roughly $29 billion state budget in July.

Read more
Government & Politics
2:50 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

In Harrisburg, New GOP Leaders, Same Political Realities

State lawmakers say only time will tell how Republican leadership changes will alter the House and Senate majority caucuses and the Legislature's relationship with the incoming administration.

The success of the Governor-elect Tom Wolf's ambitious policy agenda came into question as the election night tallies last week showed Republicans grew their majorities in the House and Senate. But many looked forward to Wednesday's leadership elections as either another nail in the coffin or a glimmer of hope.

Read more
legislative leadership
4:35 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Shakeup In PA Senate GOP Leadership

State Senate Republicans have a new majority leader for the first time in eight years.

Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) will lead the 30-member caucus for the next two-year legislative session along with Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County, who was re-elected to his post Wednesday.

Corman ousted Senator Dominic Pileggi (R-CHester), who had been criticized for not advancing conservative policies, and who many say has clashed with Scarnati.

Read more
Election 2014
2:46 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Legislators Prepare to Elect (New?) Caucus Leaders

The state House and Senate could return to session next year with new faces leading the Republican majority and Democratic minority caucuses. Leadership elections scheduled Wednesday could change the direction of each chamber for the next two-year session.

Read more
Election 2014
5:44 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Wolf to Hold Transition Team to Ethics Pledge

Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf (seen at a campaign event in in Chester this fall) is looking to impose an ethics pledge on his transition team.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

Governor-elect Tom Wolf is imposing an ethics code on the people tasked with shaping his administration.

The code of ethical conduct is a relatively recent pre-requisite for gubernatorial transition teams. Governor Corbett had his 400-person team pledge a similar oath. Franklin & Marshall College pollster Terry Madonna said it's a sign of the times.

Read more
Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Midstate Republican Floats Bill To Penalize Hazing

Following a southeastern high school that curtailed its season after allegations of hazing, a midstate lawmaker is seeking to criminalize such rituals.

Pennsylvania is one of 44 states with anti-hazing laws, but the commonwealth’s statute applies only to institutions of higher education. Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) said hazing penalties should apply to schools and clubs, as well.

“They should be penalized,” Marsico said. “I mean, they’re old enough to know. If they’re over 13 years of age, they should know better.”

Read more

Pages