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
4:16 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

In Harrisburg, A Mad Legislative Dash As Session Wraps Up

The state Legislature convenes this week in Harrisburg for its final two days of voting scheduled before the November election.
Credit Elizabeth Thomsen / via Flickr Creative Commons

The state Legislature convenes this week in Harrisburg for its final two days of voting scheduled before the November election.

Longtime legislative observers say the proposals that advance this close to an election are more about politics than policy.

Red meat issues abound. There’s a plan to scale back regulations protecting high-quality streams. Another bill would let gun owners sue cities over local gun laws.

Some bills have omnivore appeal, like the measure adding a couple jury duty exemptions to include breastfeeding mothers and people 75 or older.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Threatened With Fee Increase, Lobbyists Go To Work

Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration is taking another run at raising the fee for lobbyist registrations.

A state panel will consider hiking the lobbyist registration fee from $200 to $300.

Many lobbyists have balked at the prospect of another increase to the registration fee. It was last raised in 2011 from $100.

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Government & Politics
4:06 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

PA Senate Battles Over Who Controls Economic Development Funds

A skirmish is unfolding in the final days of the state legislative session.

It's over an effort to change who approves state grants for economic development projects, so often touted by lawmakers.

Opponents call it a legislative power grab.

Senate Republicans have voted to put economic development spending in the hands of a little-known state authority with an abysmal record on transparency.

But, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa says the governor’s office should maintain control of which projects get funding.

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Government & Politics
2:35 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

PA Chief Justice To See Raunchy Email 'Materials' Friday

Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ron Castille on Friday will find out more about whether bawdy e-mails traded among current and former state employees went all the way to the state judiciary.

Jim Koval, a spokesman for Castille, said the chief justice will meet with an agent from Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office. Castille requested more information specific to any "top jurists" who sent or received sexually explicit e-mails in a letter to Kane two weeks ago.

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Government & Politics
2:24 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Supporters Rally For Mandatory Hepatitis C Screenings

State lawmakers could send to the governor a plan to make doctors test for hepatitis C among patients most likely to have it – baby boomers.
 
The mandatory screening for people born between 1945 and 1965 would address another medical issue contributing to rising health care costs.
 
Hepatitis C causes liver failure if left untreated. Most people don’t know they have it.
 

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Government & Politics
2:21 am
Wed October 8, 2014

House GOP Digs In For Medical Marijuana Hearings

State House lawmakers plan to hold at least one hearing on medical marijuana, which will likely put off any final votes on legalization until next year.
 
House GOP leaders say a Senate-backed plan to allow certain kinds of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania needs to be more thoroughly vetted before it’s lined up for a vote.
 
“What exactly does it do? Do you guys know what it does?” said House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin, addressing reporters. “Do you know it sets up a whole new bureaucracy and industry?”
 

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Government & Politics
11:44 am
Tue October 7, 2014

With Drug Laws Changing, One Academic Fears Over-Correction

A comprehensive and rational drug policy in Pennsylvania may be elusive for some time, warns one academic.

State lawmakers have considered a few different remedies to the spiking rates of heroin overdoses in Pennsylvania. In the next few weeks, they'll turn their attention to the abundance of painkillers. If abused, such opioids can turn people on to heroin.

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Government & Politics
4:56 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Some Say Bit-By-Bit Disclosures in Porn Email Scandal Show Political Motive

For the past week, Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane has released information in a piecemeal fashion about bawdy e-mails exchanged by current and former state employees years ago. Some say the office has done little to quell criticism that the bit-by-bit disclosures show political motive.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille called it a “show and tell” last week — the way the attorney general revealed raunchy images sent or received by eight men who worked under Gov. Tom Corbett when he helmed the AG’s office. All the men named by Kane’s office are Republicans.

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Election 2014
4:49 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Wednesday Brings Second Of Three Corbett-Wolf Debates

Gov. Tom Corbett heads into his second debate with Democratic challenger Tom Wolf with renewed energy, after a strong performance in the candidates’ first debate last week.

But Wednesday morning’s debate will air on radio and TV stations in the Philadelphia area, where most of the state’s Democratic voters reside.

“The geography of this certainly favors Wolf,” said Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll and a political science professor.

It’s not clear how much debates can shake up a statewide gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania.

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Government & Politics
8:00 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Act 47 Changes Near The Finish Line

State lawmakers are working out the details of a plan to overhaul Act 47, shorthand for the much-maligned program that to rehabilitate municipalities with money problems.

Cities lingering in the state program would be given deadlines to exit. The state would expand early intervention efforts for municipalities sailing toward fiscal cliffs. Smaller communities would have new ways to disband if residents agree they’re just not viable.

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Government & Politics
9:28 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Medical Marijuana Bill Heads To House

A bill to legalize medical marijuana has passed the state Senate with overwhelming support and now heads to an uncertain future in the House.

The GOP House majority leader opposes the measure.

But one Republican in House leadership is on the record in favor of medical marijuana. And within the past week, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) has scaled up his ambition for pushing the plan. It used to be a next-year priority. Now, Vereb is trying to send it to the governor within the next month.

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Government & Politics
5:33 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Corbett Signs Philadelphia Schools Cigarette Tax Bill

Gov. Tom Corbett has signed a long-awaited measure to let Philadelphia levy a tax on $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes to raise money for its schools.

Supporters heralded the bipartisan effort required to pass the tax authorization. The tax, along with a city sales tax increase and borrowing, will help the Philadelphia school district bridge an $81 million deficit.

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Government & Politics
10:41 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

PA Senate Poised To Pass Medical Marijuana Legislation

A proposal to legalize certain kinds of medical marijuana will go to the full Senate for consideration Wednesday.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he expects the measure to pass after it received overwhelming and bipartisan approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday afternoon.

The panel's lengthy debate revealed concerns that there hasn’t been sufficient medical research on marijuana. But supporters said their sympathies are with parents of children afflicted with seizures who are desperate for a better treatment.

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Election 2014
8:05 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Corbett Shows Spunk In Debate, But Perhaps Too Late

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, left, and Democrat Tom Wolf shake hands at the end of a gubernatorial debate hosted by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry on Monday in Hershey, Pa.
Credit Matt Rourke / The Associated Press

The stakes were high for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett going into his first debate with Tom Wolf, his Democratic challenger.

An averaging of recent polls shows the governor trailing by double digits.

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Government & Politics
7:54 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Wolf: PA Cities Need More Than Pork

It’s not easy being a city in Pennsylvania.

But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf said part of the problem is inside our own heads.

“We now think cities are sort of basket cases,” said Wolf on Monday. “They’re not. Cities are the wave of the future. Dense population centers are what people really want ... one of the things that we have to start with is the assumption that cities really have a strong future.”

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 22, 2014

Would-Be Reformers Get An I.O.U. On Gift Ban

Government reform advocates have long pushed for tighter ethics laws, and indignation was in abundant supply this year after state lawmakers were dogged by scandals.

But after much talk, the leader of the Senate GOP is pledging to support a full gift prohibition — next year.

The ban, proposed by a couple Senate Republicans, would apply to public officials and public employees across the state.

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Government & Politics
5:37 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

State Audit Expanded To Review Tomalis

The state’s top fiscal watchdog says an ongoing audit of the state Department of Education will now also look into certain employees, including Ron Tomalis, the former secretary and special advisor to the governor who resigned under a cloud of criticism this past August.

Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the in-progress audit will review special advisors, contractors and short-term employees.

“It’s not just about Mr. Tomalis,” DePasquale said. “It’s an issue broadly about are people being hired and they don’t have an actual role to play?”

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Government & Politics
10:34 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Advocates Applaud Stronger Human Trafficking Penalties

Two weeks into the implementation of Pennsylvania's new law to crack down on human trafficking, supporters took a victory lap in the state Capitol rotunda.

The law clarifies what constitutes labor and sex trafficking, sets harsher penalties, and allows law enforcement to differentiate offenders from victims.

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Government & Politics
10:31 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Corbett Says He's Not Convinced Racy E-mails Exist

With a judge considering whether to release allegedly inappropriate e-mails circulated by attorney general employees, Gov. Tom Corbett said he's still not positive the e-mails exist as they've been described.

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Government & Politics
8:07 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Medical Cannabis Gets A Hand From Top House Republican

The state House may not snuff out a medical marijuana legalization plan, after all.

A top House Republican is supporting an effort to legalize medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, in the first indication that the opposition of the chamber’s majority could thaw.

At a rally on the Capitol steps Monday, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) said his change of heart on the issue came after seeing footage of seizure-stricken children whose severe epilepsy could be treated with cannabis.

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Government & Politics
8:03 am
Tue September 16, 2014

State To Borrow From Treasury To Pay Bills

For the second year in a row, the state will have to borrow money from its treasury to cover basic operating expenses.

The Corbett administration’s budget office has taken out a line of credit with the state’s Treasury Department, authorizing transfers of as much as $1.5 billion.

Gary Tuma, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Treasury, said the state hasn’t resorted to this kind of maneuver so early in the fiscal year before.

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Election 2014
7:54 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Poll Shows Wolf Having a 'Prohibitive' Lead Over Corbett

A recent poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania finds Gov. Tom Corbett trailing his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf.
Credit Matt Rourke / The Associated Press

A Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania finds Gov. Tom Corbett is 24 points behind his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they would vote for the York County businessman, with 35 percent supporting Corbett. The figures include people leaning toward voting for either candidate.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they could change their minds.

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Government & Politics
7:58 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Medical Marijuana Proposal Faces An Uncertain Future

A plan to legalize medical marijuana could be taken up by the full state Senate in the four weeks the Legislature is scheduled to be in session this fall.

The measure to create a regulatory framework for growing and prescribing medical cannabis got a key Senate committee vote in June.       

GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said Wednesday that his caucus will discuss next week whether they can pass the plan.

“It has broad support in the caucus,” Pileggi said. “I haven’t counted heads, and I can’t tell you if it’s 13 or 23.”

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Transportation
9:54 am
Wed September 10, 2014

PennDOT’s First Public-Private Effort Hits The Road

The state is rolling out its first public-private partnership since a 2012 law allowed such joint efforts for transportation infrastructure and services.

A nearly 20-year-old highway safety truck service now has a private sponsor in State Farm, which is paying 11 percent of the annual $4 million cost for the roving patrols on highways in and around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and Harrisburg.

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Health Care
7:52 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Would Full Medicaid Expansion In PA Cause Coverage Glitches?

The federally-approved waiver for Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania is set to begin covering hundreds of thousands of newly eligible Pennsylvanians in January. Depending on who’s governor-elect at that point, there may be some changes.

Democratic nominee Tom Wolf has said he would implement a full Medicaid expansion if elected governor in November.

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Government & Politics
8:10 am
Tue September 9, 2014

State Police Say Proposal To Change PA Liquor Laws Misses The Point

Pennsylvania State Police tasked with enforcing the commonwealth's liquor code say a new proposal to make it OK to buy booze across the state border misses the point.

A new state House plan would allow Pennsylvanians to buy alcohol across state lines and bring it back for personal consumption — or to be reimbursed for the now-contraband beverages they buy for friends and family.

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Election 2014
8:03 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Wolf Contends He Can Gain Support From GOP-Dominated Legislature

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf speaks at a campaign stop in Dauphin County Monday.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

At a campaign stop in Dauphin County, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf said he’s not concerned about the prospect of working with a Republican-dominated Legislature.

“It’s leadership. It’s bringing people together,” he said. “It’s actually getting up out of your chair, getting out from behind your desk, walking down, bringing people together, giving people a compelling vision about what we need to do to make Pennsylvania better, and working with them to come up with solutions – not just sitting back at your desk.”

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 8, 2014

LGBT Group Looks to 2015 for Ban on Discrimination

The General Assembly's fall session doesn't begin until Sept. 15, but the state's leading advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pennsylvanians is already closing the book on an anti-discrimination measure that picked up unprecedented, bipartisan support.

"At the current moment, with nine days left in the session, I don't hold out a lot of hope that the bill will pass this year," said Ted Martin, head of Equality PA.

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Pension
10:41 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Report: State Worker Pensions Set 'Arbitrarily'

It seems that every few months Pennsylvania’s famously underfunded public pension systems receive some new low ranking or grade. The latest reproach takes issue with the way pension payouts are determined – based on age and years worked.

A report by the nonpartisan Urban Institute calls the rules setting state retirement benefits arbitrary. It restricted its analysis to employees hired in 2013 who will receive pension benefits through the State Employee Retirement System, or SERS:

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Health
7:55 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Doctors Eye Prescription Tracking Bills

For about a year, state lawmakers have considered how to make it easier to track prescription drug abuse in Pennsylvania. Supporters say a plan to expand a patient database may be close to final passage.

The commonwealth already has a database to track the drugs most prone to abuse. Pending legislation would expand the tool to include prescriptions that treat migraines, seizures, and anxiety, as well as some cough medicines. Once in the database, those prescriptions would be subject to a dragnet by doctors, pharmacists, and (to an as yet unknown degree) law enforcement.

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