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.

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Government & Politics
10:02 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Corbett Shrugs Off Possibility Lawmakers Will Sue Over Blocked Earmarks

Gov. Tom Corbett is shrugging off the possibility state lawmakers will sue him for blocking their earmarks earlier this month.

Legislative leaders say the line-item veto of seven-point-two million dollars in projects was unconstitutional.

They could try to override the veto with a two-thirds vote, or sue the administration.

Corbett said he doesn’t think a court battle is likely, though he’s not troubled by the possibility.

"Let them sue me," he said. "Last time I looked, that’s in the constitution, isn’t it?"

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Government & Politics
9:55 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Another Investigation Into Lawmakers Implicated In Corruption Sting

Yet another governmental body appears to be investigating four Philadelphia Democrats for allegedly accepting cash or gifts from an undercover informant.

A letter from the State Ethics Commission indicates an investigation into the four state lawmakers implicated in a corruption sting.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Property Tax Reform Efforts Spring Eternal

State lawmakers have snubbed two different efforts to reduce property taxes buoyed by recent activism on the issue. But for every season, turn, turn, turn.

Recently proposed tax shifts fit into one of two categories: statewide or local. But a nascent effort from Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) combines both approaches.

"With the increased discussion on property taxes, over the last year or so, I thought maybe it's the right time to try to put together another proposal that kind of meshes some of the different thoughts together," Reed said.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Corbett Not Letting Up On Public Pension Overhaul

Gov. Tom Corbett is not giving up the ghost of a public pension overhaul proposal — saying he may still call a special session of the state Legislature to address the issue.

The measure still does not have enough support in the House and Senate, Corbett said at a roundtable discussion in Hummelstown Friday.

The governor has been making daily statements about the plan, which would reduce retirement benefits of future public workers.

Supporters say the changes would reign in long-term costs of public pensions.

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Government & Politics
4:11 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Partial Veto of Projects Could Prompt Lawsuit

Lawmakers think the governor overreached when he vetoed not just parts of the state budget, but parts of another related piece of legislation, and House and Senate leaders are weighing their options to retaliate.

The state constitution allows the governor to partially veto “appropriations.” Lawmakers have interpreted that to mean specific sections of a state budget can be struck down by the governor.

Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett did that.

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Government & Politics
7:32 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Right-Sizing Supporters Eye House Reductions After Spring Fiasco

The past several weeks saw much action, but little advancement, on proposals to reduce the number of seats in the state House and Senate.

Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the country, with 253 state lawmakers. Efforts to thin the ranks ground to a halt over the past several weeks.

Opponents argue that membership cuts will lump more constituents in each district, leaving them with representation of lesser quality. They say a big shrink would concentrate legislative representation in more populated urban areas.

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Government & Politics
10:14 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

New Law Gives Legal Aid for the Poor a Boost

Legal aid for the poor and disadvantaged is slated to get more funding under a measure approved by the legislature and signed by the governor this month.

Court fees are slated to increase in order to set aside more money to help eligible Pennsylvanians pay their legal bills when settling basic needs regarding things like housing, health and safety. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tara Toohil (R-Luzerne), passed with nearly unanimous support in the House and Senate.

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Government & Politics
7:47 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Charters Dodge Special Education Funding Changes

A recently approved tweak to special education funding won’t apply to charter schools, after all. State lawmakers shied away from the changes after charters argued it would have been unfair.

There will be changes to the way traditional public schools receive any new funding for special education — it’ll be based on the needs of individual students and school districts, instead of being tied to an average special needs cost across the state.

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Government & Politics
7:55 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Pension Overhaul Spiked As Corbett Stalls

State lawmakers unceremoniously sidelined a public pension overhaul bill Tuesday, disarming House Republicans in their efforts to advance a priority topping Gov. Tom Corbett’s legislative wish list.

Midway through floor debate on the measure, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R- Bucks) asked to send the pensions proposal to his committee for further study over the summer.

“There are too many unanswered questions about the proposal and about the amendment that we have before us,” said DiGirolamo.

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Government & Politics
7:51 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Corbett Withholds Signature On Budget For Pension Overhaul

Gov. Tom Corbett is holding off on signing the $29.1 billion commonwealth budget approved by state lawmakers Monday evening.

The announcement came just after the final vote on the spending plan, which includes no new taxes but leans heavily on one-time revenue sources and hopeful revenue forecasts.

In a written statement, the governor took issue not with anything in the spending plan, but with the Legislature’s failure to pass another one of his top priorities: changes to public pension benefits for future state and school employees.

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Budget
5:28 am
Mon June 30, 2014

No-Tax Budget Teed Up For Final Votes Today

A roughly $29.1 billion state budget is poised for final votes in the House and Senate Monday.

The plan includes no new taxes, and appears likely to go to the governor before the midnight deadline.

Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans are noting the number of one-time funding sources and optimistic tax revenue forecasts baked into the plan.

The proposed spending blueprint relies on nearly $250 million in transfers from funds for small business loans and other programs.

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Government & Politics
3:24 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Pigeon Shoots, Dog and Cat Meat Processing Could End in PA

The umpteenth effort to ban pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania has cleared a state Senate panel.

Animal rights activists have been trying for decades to end pigeon shoots – private events during which hunters take aim at live pigeons released from traps. Activists call it barbaric, though judges and prosecutors have said it breaks no animal cruelty laws.

Sen. Rich Alloway (R-Adams) counts himself among the traditional sportsmen against the practice. He called it a wasteful “blood sport” before voting for the ban during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.

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Government & Politics
10:55 am
Thu June 26, 2014

House Sends Budget To Senate As Tax Talks Continue

The state House passed a $29.1 billion spending plan Wednesday, five days before the July 30 budget deadline. The measure now heads to the Senate, which looks likely to make big changes to the revenue sources assumed in the plan, if not the final spend figure.

House Republicans heralded the proposal as a reflection of their priorities: holding the line on spending, without raising taxes, and passed before July.

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Government & Politics
7:53 am
Wed June 25, 2014

House Panel Links Budget To Liquor Privatization

With about a week left before the state budget deadline, House lawmakers have advanced an actual spending plan.

Until now, the House has been teeing up a bill referred to merely as vehicle - last year's budget in new legislation, a placeholder for whenever the Republican majority put together the plan it intended to send to the Senate.

And in some ways, the $29.1 billion spending plan voted out of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday is still just a vehicle. It's likely to undergo some big changes before heading to the governor's desk.

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Government & Politics
11:23 am
Tue June 24, 2014

Nothing But Questions As the June Budget Deadline Nears

State lawmakers are heading into the final stretch of June, and for the first time in four years, a budget agreement doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who ran for office promising timely state budgets, has said he’ll forgive a late spending plan in return for passage of two other legislative priorities: an overhaul of public pensions and changes to how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania.

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Pennsylvania
8:08 am
Tue June 24, 2014

In Review of Sandusky Case, Kane Sees Flaws in Prosecution, But No Politics

A long-awaited review of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case has exonerated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of suggestions the investigation was slowed by political calculations. But state Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she still sees flaws in the prosecution and is openly inviting speculation on how it was handled.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Despite Bipartisan Backing, LGBT Protections Stalled

Passage is looking unlikely this year for a bill to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians.

The measure would outlaw firing someone from his or her job, evicting someone from his or her home, or not seating people at a restaurant on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gov. Tom Corbett supports it, as do a bipartisan group of state lawmakers.

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Veterans
7:48 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Plan For Statewide Veterans Courts Met With Some Skepticism

Veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse could ping-pong through the criminal justice system for years without a support system that recognizes common problems facing former members of the military.

That’s the premise of Pennsylvania’s veterans treatment courts, which started as county initiatives several years ago to help the state’s veteran population — the fifth largest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  

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Government & Politics
4:47 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Corbett Shrugs Off June 30 Budget Deadline

Gov. Tom Corbett says he’ll make do with a late budget this year and possibly renege on his no-taxes campaign pledge.  

“Given the difficulty of this budget, I have allowed — I have informed — the legislators, we need to get this done and we need to get it done right, rather than quickly,” said Corbett at a news conference Tuesday. “So, if we are not able to finish by June 30, we are not able to finish by June 30.”

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Government & Politics
7:58 am
Tue June 17, 2014

House, Senate GOP Leaders Not Expecting To Meet End-Of-June Budget Deadline

It’s shaping up to be a longer-than-usual work calendar for state lawmakers negotiating the commonwealth’s budget.

House and Senate Republican leaders aren’t expecting to meet the state constitution’s end-of-June budget deadline.

“It’s unlikely that we will finish our work by June 30,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he told his caucus’s members. “Certainly be prepared for at least the first week in July.”

When pressed for more details (for example: just how far should lawmakers and staff push back holiday plans?), Pileggi was reticent.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon June 16, 2014

In Harrisburg, The Debate Over Construction Codes Persists

A debate is raging over ways to update the various codes that govern construction in Pennsylvania.

A new code requiring sprinklers in a building — is it a life saver or a costly mandate? The answer to that question depends on whether you make your living building homes or selling sprinklers.

Every three years, a state review panel is faced with hundreds of new model codes to adopt or reject. The state Senate has passed a proposal to give the panel more time (two years instead of one) to consider each code.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Trade Group Says Survey Links Drug Use To Job Vacancies

A manufacturing trade group says a new survey links drug use to unfilled jobs in Pennsylvania, though it doesn't catapult the issue out of the realm of anecdotes.

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association says the conclusion of a commissioned survey is that one-third of manufacturing job applicants fail or decline to take drug tests.

It's actually one-third of company executives surveyed who say drug tests foiled new hires.

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Government & Politics
1:00 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Senate Mulls Plan To Boost Affordable Housing

Affordable housing hasn’t been an agenda-topper for state lawmakers this year faced with too many line items and not enough money. But a bipartisan group of senators are backing a plan that could boost residential housing stock by letting the real estate market do the heavy lifting.  

The state’s one percent tax on real estate transfers is being eyed as a way to pay for it.

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Government & Politics
7:33 am
Thu June 12, 2014

With Dismal Revenue Outlook, Party Leaders Warm To Each Other

Revenue updates continue to leave state lawmakers cold, but partisan tensions may be starting to thaw as leaders sense tough decisions ahead.

The news is bad and not getting better for anyone interested in finishing a state budget by the end of June. April tax collections were down by hundreds of millions of dollars, followed by a May haul that came in roughly $100 million below estimate. On Wednesday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) said June revenues are expected to contribute to the growing deficit.

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Government & Politics
7:46 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Plan To Reduce Penn State Board Goes To Full Senate

The full Senate will take up a measure to reduce the size of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, thereby responding to criticisms of how the university handled the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.

Under the proposal, Penn State’s current governing body would go from 30 to 23 voting members. Changes, by attrition, would go into effect in 2016.

Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) proposed the overhaul to address concerns voiced in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal.

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