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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State Government
12:04 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Squabble over Business Tax as School Problems Loom Larger

Three big issues have dominated the state budget debate, but with less than two weeks before June 30, one lawmaker is suggesting poor schools are getting short shrift.

"Pensions, transportation, liquor — they're being resolved as we speak," said Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia). "Education has not been resolved, and it can actually affect whether we get a budget or not."

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Government & Politics
7:41 am
Wed June 19, 2013

For House GOP, Repealing Wage Law 'Integral' to Transportation Bill

Negotiations over a $2.5 billion plan to fix Pennsylvania's roads and bridges could include getting rid of state-set wages that increase the cost of road repair projects.

Many House Republicans have long opposed of the state's prevailing wage law, saying it typically sets the pay for public works projects at union rates, and boosts costs to local governments by as much as 20 percent.

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Liquor Privatization
7:32 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Senate GOP Calls Its Alcohol Sales Plan A 'Starting Point'

State Senate GOP leaders have presented a counter-offer to the state House's liquor privatization plan, though they admit they don't yet have the votes to pass it out of their chamber.

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Liquor Privatization
4:58 pm
Mon June 17, 2013

Details Scarce as Senate GOP Wrangles Votes on Liquor Bill

State Senate Republicans are expected to offer their own counter-proposal to the House's plan to phase out state wine and spirits stores and privatize the state's wholesale operation.

But details of the proposal are still under wraps. When asked for a status update on the bill, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre) said, with a laugh, "That's a great question."

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State Government
11:51 am
Mon June 17, 2013

Gift Disclosures Here, But Not For Long

"If we decide if something doesn't have value and destroy it or don't take it, then it's gone forever," said State Archives Director David Haury. "This is a serious responsibility."
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

Anyone with Internet access will be able to read the 2012 financial interest statements disclosing gifts accepted by public officials — like Turkish robes for the governor and Waterford crystal for the lieutenant governor.

But after five years, the state Ethics Commission doesn't keep such records on hand. Within the past few years, the Pennsylvania State Archives decided it would stop taking them, and it destroyed old disclosure forms going back to 1979.

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Government & Politics
12:59 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

DCNR Chief's Resignation 'Asked For and Received'

Another member of the Corbett administration is out: Richard Allan, head of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, has resigned.

The news came in a press release from the governor's office, which said the resignation was "asked for" and would be effective immediately.

No reason was given for Allan's departure.

"It's a personnel matter so I can't discuss it, other than to say that it has nothing to do with any differences of public policy," said Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley.

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Transportation
9:45 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Speeding Ticket Surcharge May Be On Chopping Block

State lawmakers may take issue with making speeding tickets cost any more than they already do.

A proposal to tack a $100 surcharge on moving violations was the subject of questions at a Wednesday House Transportation Committee hearing on the $2.5 billion transportation funding proposal.

The revenue generated from the surcharge would be slated for mass transit, and with a number of rural House lawmakers already balking at funding mass transit systems, the proposal might be one of the least popular items in a bill full of unpalatable revenue generators.

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State Government
3:41 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Corbett Pushes Liquor Privatization Ahead of Expected Action in Senate

At an umpteenth press conference called by the governor on liquor privatization, press aides futzed around, arranging a people asked to stand around the podium with ready smiles and applause.

The state Senate is next to act in this saga that began with a plan to close down the state wine and spirits stores.

State lawmakers have less than three weeks before the governor's deadline for passing a liquor privatization bill. Much is still unknown about how the process will unfold.

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State Government
7:19 am
Wed June 12, 2013

House Puts Off Budget Vote Until Wednesday

State House GOP leaders expect to send a $28.3 billion budget proposal to the Senate on Wednesday. The move is largely procedural, since closed-door budget negotiations are still ongoing.

The House was originally slated to vote on the spending plan late Tuesday afternoon. But since final remarks on the floor were expected to go on into the evening, the final vote was put off.

"We clearly have the votes. The votes aren't a question," said Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery). "There's nobody getting beat up tonight, there's nobody getting sequestered."

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Transportation
4:24 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Cylists Call On State Lawmakers to Keep Proposed $2 Million For Lane Planning

Bicycle and walking enthusiasts took to the state Capitol steps Tuesday to urge lawmakers to maintain money set aside for lane and pathway planning in a transportation funding bill.

The state Senate's $2.5 billion transportation funding proposal includes $2 million for planning for pedestrian and bicycle lanes.

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State Government
12:26 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Corbett, Counties Push Block Grant Expansion

Several county commissioners and state lawmakers are joining Gov. Tom Corbett in a push to expand a pilot program to change the way counties receive human services funding.

The proposal is one of the governor's lower-profile budget priorities. He wants to allow all counties to receive their state funding for seven distinct human services in a single block grant.

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State Government
6:54 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Union Rallies Against Corbett's Budget, Pension Plans

An estimated 350 state and public sector workers rallied at the state Capitol Monday to call for more funding for education and human services.

Members of the Service Employees International Union also urged Gov. Tom Corbett to drop his calls for pension overhaul, which would include reducing the future benefits of current state and public school employees.

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Transportation
9:40 am
Thu June 6, 2013

State Senate Passes Transportation Bill

The state Senate has passed a transportation funding plan, after years of calls for action and months of legislative discussions.

By the fifth year of the plan's implementation, the state would be yielding $2.5 billion. The money would come largely from higher driver's license and vehicle registration fees, surcharges on traffic violations, and the removal of the cap on a tax paid by gas stations.

"Or as some people like to call them, user fees," said Sen. John Rafferty pointedly on the Senate floor Wednesday.

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State Government
3:59 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

State Lawmakers Propose Expanded Definition of Child Abuse

State lawmakers are getting ready to move forward with proposals to expand the definition of child abuse in Pennsylvania in an effort to flag more incidents of suspected mistreatment.

The changes come at the suggestion of a task force convened last year to study child protection laws and issues.

Attorney Jason Kutulakis, a member of the panel, said the commonwealth’s legal definition of child abuse must be expanded and made clearer.

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Government & Politics
12:34 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

PASSHE Guns Review Continues, with Unclear Mandate

A task force's review of weapons policies at Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities could last through the beginning of the fall semester.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is re-examining gun policies after state lawyers raised concerns that campus-wide bans of firearms possession could be vulnerable to state and federal constitutional challenges.

Kenn Marshall, a state system spokesman, says schools have been advised to create site-specific bans in the meantime.

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Liquor Privatization
4:46 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Senate's Last Liquor Hearing Comes with Spirited Debate

Tempers flared at the third and final state Senate hearing focused on the governor's liquor privatization proposal and related plans to change the way alcohol is bought and sold in Pennsylvania.

By the end, the committee's chairman was barely closer to nailing down the details of a proposal, saying a final plan should allow Pennsylvanians to buy alcohol in "more places," while phasing out the state wine and spirits stores, and without necessarily getting rid of the state-owned wholesale system.

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State Government
10:48 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Silos May Be in the Offing for More Counties' Human Services Programs

The fate of a pilot program affecting county human services programs is getting more scrutiny this week as state lawmakers consider proposals to expand it gradually or scrap it altogether.

The pilot program allows 20 counties to collapse the funding of several distinct human services into one big funding pot, removing the constraints on each service’s designated silo of funding and giving administrators more control over how the money is divvied up.

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State Government
3:54 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Senate Dems Offer Their Own Budget Proposal

As lawmakers in the state House teed up the legislative vehicle for a state budget Monday morning, Senate Democrats offered their view on what the final spending plan should look like.

The Senate Democrats' plan amounts to about $28.4 billion — roughly $56 million above what the governor proposed. It depends on the so-called modernization of the state's liquor system, keeping a business tax the governor wants to eliminate, and the state's participation in a federally authorized expansion of the Medicaid program.

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Pennsylvania
3:30 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Recently Installed Gas Tubes at Risk for Lightning-Caused Fires

A certain kind of gas tubing may be putting Pennsylvania homeowners at risk of gas leaks and fires in the event of a lightning strike.

Bright yellow, flexible gas tubing made of corrugated stainless steel has been linked to lightning-induced fires in states like Maryland, Indiana, Ohio and New Hampshire in what appears to be a case of industry code lagging behind the technology.

In recent years, both manufacturers and the national fuel gas code have adopted new guidelines for installing the tubing to rule out fires caused by lightning strikes.

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State Government
12:14 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

State AG: Proposed Funding Increase Not Enough to Stave Off Furloughs

Pennsylvania’s top fiscal watchdog isn’t sure an offer from state House Republicans to hike his agency’s funding could prevent some of the layoffs planned for mid-June.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the proposed $2.6 million increase wouldn’t be enough to bring back all 67 people throughout the state who are slated to lose their positions.

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Transportation
6:33 am
Fri May 31, 2013

Corbett Administration Again Pushes Transportation Plan

Gov. Tom Corbett is in call-to-action mode, urging passage of a transportation funding proposal for the second time in a week.

A $2.5 billion plan is expected to be passed by the full Senate within the next two weeks.

But the real question is whether House Republicans will vote for a bill that does things like hike driver’s license fees and uncap a tax paid by gas stations.

PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said he’s been going to each House lawmaker to explain what’s at stake.

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State Government
6:21 am
Thu May 30, 2013

State Senate Pension Hearing Offers Few Answers

State Senate lawmakers are beginning the public vetting of a three-part proposal from the governor's office to deal with the state's multi-billion dollar pension debt.

Months of debate leading up to the hearing have only made the groups on either side of the issue seem as entrenched as ever.

Gerry Oleksiak, vice president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, reiterated the unions' position that the governor's plan to reduce the future benefits of current employees is an unconstitutional breach of contract.

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State Government
1:10 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

House GOP Unveil $28.3 Billion Spending Plan

If the governor's budget address is the overture to budget negotiations, a proposal from the House Majority leadership is Act One.

State House Republicans are putting a bill in place for legislative action as spending negotiations get underway. The $28.3 billion dollar outline comes in at about $110 million less than the governor's budget.

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Liquor Privatization
4:14 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Lt. Gov. Calls on 'Deliberative' State Senators to Support Liquor Privatization Plan

A series of hearings on liquor privatization in Pennsylvania will soon come to an end in the state Senate.

Lawmakers next week plan to finish up a trio of gatherings spurred by the House’s passage of a plan in March to phase out the state’s wine and spirits stores.

Gov. Tom Corbett has blasted state senators for dragging their feet on the issue. But Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who helped draft the administration’s privatization plan, has said the Senate has always been “deliberative.”

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Education
3:42 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Special Education Funding Formula in the Spotlight

A new panel in charge of coming up with a different funding formula for special education in Pennsylvania is in place.

The commission of state lawmakers and a few members of the governor’s cabinet will attempt to find a replacement for the current formula, which doles out money based on a set percentage of each school district’s enrollment.

State Republican Representative Bernie O’Neill of Bucks County pushed for the panel for years.

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