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.

State Senate Republicans plan to roll out a proposal to overhaul public pensions in early May, the first step toward making good on their promise to address pension debt before negotiating a commonwealth budget.

Caucus leaders have repeatedly suggested switching future hires into a 401(k)-style retirement system. Last month, the Senate majority leader said he might try to scale back unearned pension benefits for current state and public school employees.

AP Photo/Marc Levy

The Independent Fiscal Office was created five years ago to provide number-crunching with no spin, but it isn't getting the last word in the state budget debate.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has vigorously disputed the IFO finding that the governor's spending plan would stick even the poorest Pennsylvanians with a tax increase.

Pennsylvania State Police are sending about 300 troopers to Baltimore beginning Thursday in a response to Maryland’s emergency request for help restoring calm to the city’s streets.

State police spokesman Trooper Adam Reed said the deployment is expected is cost $200,000 a day, which the state of Maryland will pay back later.

Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities must do more to comply with federal laws meant to ensure campus safety, according to a new report from the state auditor general.

The audit finds uneven adherence to Title IX, which bans sex-based discrimination among the 14 universities that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

Chancellor Frank Brogan said inconsistent policies the federal law could lead to poor enforcement or even a willingness to skimp on oversight.

State Senate GOP leaders aren't in Gov. Tom Wolf's inner circle, and they aren't happy about it.

The Senate's top Republican said last week the governor should have consulted his caucus before nominating a state treasurer.

"Who wants to be nominated by the governor that's going to go to the Senate and be voted down because the governor refuses to have a conversation with the Senate?" said Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson). "That's a ridiculous position to take to try to recruit, nominate and confirm qualified people for these positions."

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration is disputing an independent report finding his budget proposal would amount to a net tax increase for Pennsylvanians of all income levels.

John Hanger, a top aide, told reporters Friday that the Independent Fiscal Office is relying on shaky data, and overlooking the potential for economic growth under the governor’s proposed reductions in business taxes.

Gov. Tom Wolf has said he just wants to give in-home care workers a voice.

Under a partial injunction issued Thursday, that voice would be somewhat muted.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini has ruled that direct care workers can still elect a representative, who can still meet with state officials about things like standards, training, working conditions. But Pellegrini barred the parties from putting any agreement in writing.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday he would veto a state proposal to eradicate local sick-leave laws in Pennsylvania if it reaches his desk.

The measure, which passed the Republican-controlled state Senate with bipartisan support last week, aims to preempt a Philadelphia law requiring businesses with 10 or more employees to give workers an hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

The man picked to run the commonwealth's Department of State for the second time is facing criticism from lawmakers who didn't like how he performed the first time on the job.

But Gov. Tom Wolf is defending his nominee, saying the concerns being voiced about Acting Secretary of State Pedro Cortés are baseless.

Acting Education Secretary Pedro Rivera began his remarks to the Senate Education Committee as he would before a classroom.

“Good morning,” Rivera said, to muffled greetings in return.

“Wow, can I try that again?” said Rivera. “I feel like I’m in front of my students.”

The back-and-forth improved from there. Before the panel voted unanimously to advance Rivera’s name for consideration, multiple lawmakers praised him for being responsive to their questions over the past few months.

Mary Wilson / WITF

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle are speaking in unison on state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who is under threat of indictment.

Their message? We're not getting involved.

Spokespeople or leaders from all four legislative caucuses said recently that they're not calling for Kane to step down.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Gov. Tom Wolf has asked various groups to start planning on increases in state funding for education, and the move is prompting criticism from Republican state lawmakers who oppose the governor's spending plan.

A proposal to give night owls a couple more hours at the bar doesn’t appear to be on the fast-track in the Republican-controlled state House.

The plan would let bars and restaurants apply for the power to keep serving alcohol until 4 o’clock in the morning.

“I’m not sure keeping bars open ‘til 4 a.m. is a priority in the House right now,” said Reed. “We’ve got bigger issues to deal with,” said GOP House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana). “I represent a college town so I’m not sure I want to keep the bars open an extra two hours with 15,000 college students.”

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

State budget negotiations are starting to take shape in Harrisburg. The backbiting has subsided for now, as meetings pick up between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders.

The governor rankled Republicans recently when he said he was prepared to work on a state budget long after the June 30 deadline.

House Republican Majority Leader Dave Reed took umbrage at the remark, calling it "premature" and suggesting Wolf said it because he was "new at this process." By Wednesday, things had been smoothed over in a meeting Wolf held with GOP legislative leaders the day before.

When House Republicans presented their own proposal to cut local property taxes, the sponsoring lawmaker threw down a gauntlet along with it.

Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) said he doubts Gov. Tom Wolf's property-tax relief plan has support within his own party.

"Nobody over there has introduced his plan," said Saylor. "If he thinks his plan's so good, I would love to see a Democrat introduce his plan. And they've had more than, what, two months to do it."

The state Senate is advancing a plan to expand law enforcement’s ability to collect people’s DNA once they’re arrested for certain crimes, but before they’re convicted.  

The measure would let police and prosecutors collect your DNA if you’re arrested for criminal homicide, sex crimes, any felonies, and certain lesser crimes like criminal trespassing and assault.

State lawmakers are faced, once again, with a plan to revamp the commonwealth's organ donation procedures.

Supporters of the changes say Pennsylvania once set the national standard for organ donations, but has since fallen behind. Proposals to increase education about being a donor and streamline the organ procurement process have failed to gain approval in the past two legislative sessions. Backers of the latest proposal are hoping third time's the charm.

The state Department of Health says a newly-authorized system to track powerful painkillers and other drugs won't arrive on schedule.

The prescription drug monitoring program was signed into law last October to establish an online database by June of this year. But that's not going to happen, and there's no word on when the new system will be ready.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The Republican-controlled state House will press ahead in the coming weeks with a plan to cut local school property taxes across the commonwealth.

A series of hearings in the state House are making one thing clear: medical marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania is no done deal.

State senators overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana last session. The governor supports its legalization as well. A Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvanians last month showed 88 percent of respondents want medical marijuana legalized.

House members don't appear as quick to pass such a plan.

A venture-capitalist with a penchant for helping minority-owned businesses is Gov. Tom Wolf’s pick to step in as state treasurer.

Tim Reese, a resident of Montgomery County, said Tuesday that he brings more than two decades of experience in finance, most recently as a managing partner at Forge Intellectual Capital and founder of the National Minority Angel Network, which sought to invest in and provide financial literacy for companies owned by minorities, women, and veterans.

Two health care associations and people who receive and provide in-home aid have sued Gov. Tom Wolf over an executive order they say paves the way for unionized caregivers.

The challenges filed in Commonwealth Court this week take issue with a February executive order allowing direct care workers paid through state programs to recognize a representative who will then meet with state officials to discuss things compensation, training and other standards.

Mary Wilson / WITF

The Pennsylvania State Police are taking applications: inquire within if you're calm, ready to work and have four hooves.

Most of the agency's 26 horses were donated. Last week, it took a few potential recruits into its stables in Hershey.

State Police Cpl. Mike Funk said donors have the option of taking their horse back after it is retired, usually around the age of 20.

The legislative task force studying the state's death penalty is once again pushing back its deadline.

The panel was supposed to finish its work in December 2013, but it has repeatedly extended its timeline. Now, the agency putting together a final report says it might need until next year.

Mary Wilson / WITF

For weeks, GOP lawmakers have been braying at Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal to reduce property taxes, saying it doesn't go far enough.

Farmers are also cottoning to that idea.

"We wouldn't support the proposal in its current state," said Mark O'Neill, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

Gov. Tom Wolf is earning a reputation as a social-media savvy executive.

Wolf took to Facebook to answer questions sent in from around the state and selected by his staff. He answered about a dozen of them during the live, video-taped exchange.

Topics ranged ranging from Wolf’s budget proposal and plans for tax increases and accompanying tax relief, to his desire to raise the state’s minimum wage and sign legislation protecting Pennsylvanians from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

A Democratic state senator says a racist, anonymous letter sent to the Cumberland County home of the acting State Police commissioner raises troubling questions.

Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) is denouncing a letter sent to Acting Commissioner Marcus Brown that used a racial slur and referred to his decision to wear the Pennsylvania State Police uniform. The letter was delivered to Brown's mailbox Monday evening.

The state’s Right-to-Know law is growing up.

The seven-year old statute giving citizens greater access to government records is yielding more complex cases as record requests are appealed and challenged in the courts.    

“Despite a decrease in the number of appeals that were filed with our office, we’ve seen an increase in the actual work that we have to do,” said Open Records Acting Director Nathanael Byerly in a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed big increases in higher education funding, and schools are starting to get back to him about whether they'd be able to keep tuition increases low — or nonexistent — in return.

Wolf's budget includes an $81 million bump in state funding for the four state-related schools: Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln University.

In return, the governor asked the schools to keep any tuition increases within the rate of inflation.

A top Republican in the state Senate said Monday that he's prepared for a late budget.

The commonwealth's spending plan is due June 30, and in recent years the GOP caucuses followed the lead of former Gov. Tom Corbett and his priority to meet that deadline.

This year, Senate Republicans have insisted their top priority is passing a public pension overhaul that reaps short-term and long-term savings for the state's deeply indebted retirement systems.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said if pension talks stretch into the fall, so will the budget process.

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