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.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

An activist is petitioning the state’s high court to suspend state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s law license.

Dauphin County resident Gene Stilp filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board in light of criminal charges filed against the attorney general last week.

AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane plans to take reporters’ questions Wednesday, days after she was arraigned on charges including perjury.

Kane has said she’s innocent and will not resign, but she did not address the media when she turned herself in on Saturday.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane was charged Thursday for leaking secret grand jury information to seek revenge on her rivals and then lying about it to a separate investigating grand jury.

A list released recently names Tom Wolf as the most liberal governor in the country. He prefers the term “practical.”

The ranking came from InsideGov, a product of data visualization company FindtheBest. Governors were evaluated using their campaign platforms, public statements, and voting records.

Wolf demurred on his first-place finish, saying on WITF’s Smart Talk that people should judge him by what he’s done.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

Economists are questioning a top Senate Republican’s claims that a new tax proposed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would devastate the natural gas drilling industry.

On WITF’s Smart Talk, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati responded to a comment about polls showing the majority of Pennsylvanians support a severance tax on natural gas drillers.

Katie McGinty / facebook

Katie McGinty confirmed Tuesday that she will seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2016.

McGinty's announcement was expected. She stepped down from her role as Gov. Tom Wolf's chief of staff last month after fellow Democrats lobbied her to run.

"As Governor Wolf's chief of staff, I've seen that as he is working hard for our families, we need partners in Washington to help solve problems, not make them worse," said McGinty in a web video released by her campaign.

The governor’s nominee to run the Pennsylvania State Police says one of his goals will be workforce diversity.  

Major Tyree Blocker said Tuesday that, in addition to community outreach and superb training, the state police needs “a long-term recruitment and retention program to attract qualified individuals.”

If confirmed by the state Senate, Blocker would be the second black commissioner of the state police. But he said his concerns about recruitment and retention extend beyond minority and female troopers.

Courtesy photo

Gov. Tom Wolf has picked retired Major Tyree C. Blocker to be the next commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, after the governor’s first nominee failed to win the state Senate’s confirmation in June.

The nomination represents a homecoming for Blocker, a Chester County resident, who spent 30 years with the State Police. Blocker was a trailblazer as an African-American commander and ran the Bureau of Drug Law Enforcement when cocaine was flooding into Pennsylvania.

Twenty-four years ago, in late July, Joyce David was running out of patience.

The commonwealth's budget was five weeks late, and David's husband, a state auditor, hadn't received a paycheck in a month.

"The paralysis stems from a potential tax increase," reported The Associated Press in 1991.

In a bid to establish a safety net for part of the state’s social safety net, the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association is urging state lawmakers to offer some help as the budget impasse hits the one-month mark.

The trade group sent letters to lawmakers in mid-July asking them to consider a short-term funding measure and held a press conference in Pittsburgh last week to drum up support. The group has also suggested that the state provide interest-free loans to social service agencies and nonprofits, “similar to what was done for state employees the last time the budget was not passed on time.”

In a state budget stalemate with few compromises, a left-leaning think tank says focusing on property tax relief could prompt some bipartisan agreement.

Gov. Tom Wolf made his pitch to offer property tax relief central to his proposed budget. In May, the state House passed a GOP-crafted proposal with bipartisan backing.

It included the kind of broad-based tax increases Republican leaders now say they can't support. 

The top House Republican says he'll try to override the governor's budget veto if negotiations don't starting yielding consensus.

"We have to look at overriding if we're not going to have a substantive discussion," said House Speaker Mike Turzai, during his appearance at the Harrisburg Press Club luncheon on Monday.

Turzai said an override should be the "goal" of the GOP-controlled Legislature, though he's not sure if such a move would have the votes to pass.

A forthcoming state Senate plan would curb the use of drones by state and local government.

Several other states have enacted laws limiting the use of drones for surveillance or hunting purposes, and federal rules for civil drones are still in the works. But Pennsylvania has no specific laws governing unmanned aircraft systems.

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon County) said he wants to limit government agencies’ use of drones. He’s worried they could violate someone’s right to be protected from search and seizure.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday said goodbye and good luck to his chief of staff for the past six months and turned to his legislative liaison, Mary Isenhour, to step in as his top aide.

Katie McGinty resigned Wednesday and is expected to launch a bid for U.S. Senate in 2016 after being courted intensively by national Democrats. She would not confirm Thursday that she intends to run.

AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File

Katie McGinty, chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, is stepping down, reportedly to prepare for an announcement of her candidacy for U.S. Senate in 2016.

Wolf's spokesman said McGinty submitted her resignation Wednesday, first reported by the National Journal. She has been considering a U.S. Senate run for the past few weeks.

McGinty's departure comes as Wolf is still trying to hammer out a budget agreement with a GOP-controlled Legislature. But a feud with Senate Republicans has smoldered for months since she took a shot at their proposal to change public pension benefits in May.

Pennsylvania schools represent a growing chunk of the school districts with the most desperate finances in the country, according to one credit rating agency.

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the credit of eight Pennsylvania school districts since March, and it says the worst of those aren’t like to recover soon.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The political debate over the state budget has hit a lull within the walls of the state Capitol, but it's very much alive on roadside billboards, radio ads, and in mailboxes.

"We're in a messaging war, but that's on both sides," said Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) this week.

GOP ally Americans for Prosperity has radio ads and billboards blasting the governor for trying to raise taxes.

A measure to expand the state's DNA collection to people arrested but not convicted for certain crimes has passed the state Senate for the third time since 2013. The plan now faces a skeptical House and considerable uncertainty about its costs.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware), would make Pennsylvania one of nearly 30 states that can take DNA samples from people arrested for serious crimes and some lesser offenses -- without needing a conviction first.

A state House Republican with a reputation for bucking party leaders is trying to loosen up the deadlock that has gripped budget negotiations for weeks.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) is offering his own attempt at a compromise state spending plan. It includes a new tax on natural gas drillers and a higher personal income tax — more than the GOP supported in new spending, but less than Gov. Tom Wolf proposed.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf isn't ruling out a switch to 401(k)-style retirement plans for future state and school employees.

"I think we can actually come up with a pension plan that's fair to employees and that meets the concerns that have been expressed by taxpayers," said Wolf when asked if he could sign such a proposal.

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Some see the state Capitol deadlock over a state budget as political dysfunction or theatre. But it's also a social experiment: this is the year Pennsylvanians will see how a court decision ending "payless paydays" affects the budget negotiations.

Administrative staff, certain volunteers and university employees are no longer required by state law to be fingerprinted and submit to criminal history and child abuse background checks.

The tweaks to the child protection law were signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on July 1.

Lawmakers had beefed up background check requirements last legislative session in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. But some groups thought the changes went too far – like university professors who balked at having to be fingerprinted in order to teach their 17-year-old students.

One week after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a GOP budget curtailing the state’s authority to spend money, negotiations over a new plan are at a standstill.

A Tuesday meeting between Republicans and the governor appeared to yield no progress toward the middle on a mix of tax proposals offered by Wolf and opposed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

William Del Toro is a natural lobbyist. He doesn't like noise or distractions, but in a loud, busy part of the Capitol one morning, he enthusiastically answered questions about job opportunities for people with disabilities.

"I'm going to tell you the truth," said Del Toro, pushing his glasses up. "I don't believe in the word, a disability. I think it's just we're all unique. We think a different way."

Gov. Tom Wolf has let fly another veto of a major Republican priority – the privatization of the state-run liquor system.

In a written statement Thursday, Wolf said he doesn’t want to sell a state asset before it reaches its full money-making potential: “This legislation falls short of a responsible means to reform our state liquor system and to maximize revenues to benefit our citizen.”

Steve Miskin, House GOP spokesman, called the move disappointing.

Late budgets aren’t the statewide shock they used to be.

Sure, the commonwealth loses the authority to make certain payments. Standoffs in the '70s, '80s and '90s meant thousands of state workers went unpaid. But recent court rulings say the state has to pay its employees’ salaries. Other critical services will have to be funded as well.

“I don’t think people should be terribly panicked or concerned,” said Christopher Craig, chief counsel to the state Treasurer. “It will take quite some for any real impact to be noticeable.”

AP Photo/Chris Knight

Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed the entire GOP-crafted budget package sent to him Tuesday.

The governor announced his plans shortly after the bill passed the Republican-controlled Legislature Friday night. He has pointed out that the spending blueprint lacks his top priorities — a new tax on the natural gas industry, for starters. On Tuesday, Wolf said the budget also lacks basic fiscal integrity.

Counties, school districts and other groups that rely on state funding are preparing themselves for a late commonwealth budget, as Gov. Tom Wolf has all but promised to veto a GOP-crafted spending plan expected to land on his desk Tuesday.

A budget deal between the Republican-controlled Legislature and the Democratic Wolf administration could be elusive. That would not stop commonwealth employees from being paid, due to a 2009 court ruling. The commonwealth would also have authority to pay for critical functions, like state prison meals and human services.

The state Senate has approved a measure to make sure Pennsylvanians’ emergency 911 calls are answered. By a unanimous vote, the chamber sent the plan to Gov. Tom Wolf, who supports the legislation.

Backers of the plan say county emergency dispatch centers are underfunded and disorganized. Their proposal would hike monthly fees on phones to shore up the system.

Lindsay Lazarski / Keystone Crossroads

The centerpiece of Gov. Tom Wolf's state budget died its umpteenth death around a negotiating table this week.

Republican legislative leaders emerged from closed-door negotiations with the Democratic Wolf administration to announce that the governor's proposed severance tax on natural gas drillers is a non-negotiable no-go.