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
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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Election 2014
7:55 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Voter Turnout Was Down, But Wolf Was Strong Where It Mattered

Unofficial statewide tallies show Tuesday’s voter turnout dipped compared to the last gubernatorial election in 2010. Still, Democrat Tom Wolf was able to beat Republican Gov. Tom Corbett with a 10-point margin by piling up votes in the state’s urban centers.

Both candidates lost their home counties, but for Wolf, winning the populous Allegheny County more than made up for losing his home turf in York County.

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Government & Politics
4:56 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Report Finds Cracks In PA’s Election Policies

An election law progress report finds Pennsylvania is a mediocre student when it comes to heeding the advice for improving the voting experience.

Common Cause, the liberal-leaning advocacy group behind the report, surveyed 10 states with tight gubernatorial or congressional elections to see if they had implemented any of the January 2014 recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

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Election 2014
11:52 am
Fri October 31, 2014

Tom Wolf's Election Bid Fueled By Cash And GOP Stumbles

Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf speaks during a rally on Oct. 15 at the Dorothy Emanuel Recreation Center in Philadelphia.
Credit AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The Democratic candidate for governor in Pennsylvania launched his political campaign with a television ad blitz and has never trailed in the polls in the race against incumbent Republican Tom Corbett.

Tom Wolf has been knocked as a tax-and-spend liberal with ill-defined policy plans, but the biggest question is how he’ll work with a Legislature likely to remain in GOP control. The York County businessman points to his experience serving his community in the midstate as his credentials.

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Election 2014
9:28 am
Fri October 31, 2014

Campaigns Hit the Home Stretch, Bracing for Low Turnout

Call it a “prebuttal” — a chance for the state GOP to respond to President Barack Obama’s visit to Pennsylvania before it happens.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf is scheduled to appear with Obama in Philadelphia at a rally on Sunday, and Republicans are treating it as an opportunity to make some of the president’s low poll numbers stick to Wolf.

Most polls show Wolf has a wide lead over Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, but indicate the president is far less popular.  

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Election 2014
11:54 am
Thu October 30, 2014

For Corbett, Re-Election Campaign Has Been An Uphill Battle

Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who is seeking a second term, speaks during a rally on Oct. 9 at Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pa.
Credit AP Photo/Matt Rourke

From the very beginning of the 2014 campaign, Gov. Tom Corbett was fighting an uphill battle. His approval ratings were low, polls consistently showed him running far behind potential Democratic candidates, and the controversy over fracking and school funding were grabbing headlines on a weekly basis. 

Corbett staked his first campaign on fiscal discipline and a no-tax pledge. He had a GOP-controlled Legislature but faltered on most of his major policy priorities. 

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Government & Politics
11:44 am
Thu October 30, 2014

PA Senate Waits For Signal On High Court Vacancy

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has one vacancy now, with another one to materialize at the end of the year. The state Senate, which confirms interim judicial nominees, is waiting for a signal from Governor Corbett on whether he’ll try to fill the first right away, or wait to fill both at once.

The governor’s office has given no indication he wants to nominate someone to fill an empty slot on the state’s high court anytime soon. The seat was vacated by Justice Seamus McCaffery, a Democrat, whose retirement this week ended an investigation into a slew of allegations against him.

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Election 2014
7:52 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Poll: Corbett Gains, But Wolf Keeps Big Lead In Gubernatorial Race

A new Franklin & Marshall poll shows that despite gains by Gov. Tom Corbett (right), Democratic hopeful Tom Wolf maintains a double-digit lead among registered and likely voters surveyed.
Credit Mary Wilson / WITF

A new Franklin & Marshall poll shows Gov. Tom Corbett has made gains in his race for re-election, but Democratic hopeful Tom Wolf maintains a double-digit lead among registered and likely voters surveyed.

The York County cabinet magnate is 13 points ahead of Corbett among self-reported likely voter respondents. It's a narrowing lead, and it reflects the work Corbett has done to appeal to his base. 63 percent of surveyed Republicans say Corbett deserves re-election, up from 39 percent in August.

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Health
4:02 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

PA Monitoring Possible Ebola Cases Without Quarantine Policy

No one in Pennsylvania has been diagnosed with the Ebola virus, but the state is closely watching possible cases under the direction of the federal Centers for Disease Control.

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