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
9:28 am
Fri May 24, 2013

Governor Asks for Backup on His To-Do List

Gov. Tom Corbett is asking for help pushing through the major items on his legislative agenda: liquor privatization, transportation funding and an overhaul of the state's pension systems.

During his Thursday morning address to the capital area chamber of commerce, he banged on the podium as he issued his first call to action on the plan before the state Senate to phase out state wine and spirits stores.

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Veterans
6:32 am
Thu May 23, 2013

Casey Reintroduces Tax Credit Bill for Veterans

Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. senator is taking another whack at knocking down the unemployment rate among military veterans with a proposed tax credit.

Sen. Bob Casey said Wednesday the tax credit would help veterans or their spouses purchase franchises. They would be able to write off 25 percent of the franchise fee, or up to $100,000.

In a conference call with reporters, Casey likened the tax credit to the GI bill funding veterans' college education, saying it's another way to help veterans establish themselves as civilians.

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Standardized Testing
11:09 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Corbett Orders Short Delay to Tweak Common Core

Gov. Tom Corbett has ordered a delay in the adoption of new high stakes standardized tests for public schools in Pennsylvania.

The new Pennsylvania Common Core standards were supposed to be implemented in July. The class of 2017 would need to pass the subject-specific tests before graduating.

But Education Department spokesman Tim Eller says the postponement won’t result in any major changes.

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Environment
7:21 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Game Commission to Track Newly Hatched Peregrine Falcons in Harrisburg

The Pennsylvania Game Commission Tuesday affixed special tracking bands to the legs of peregrine falcons that have hatched atop a state office building in Harrisburg.

The agency has been monitoring the offspring of falcons nesting on the building ledge since 2000 as part of an effort to help the recovery of a bird that is on the state’s endangered species list.

Game Commission biologist Art McMorris said the falcon population may improve enough to come off that list in the next decade.

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Government & Politics
7:09 am
Tue May 21, 2013

PA Senators Wait for Answers from IRS

Members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee will put their questions to the IRS acting commissioner Tuesday, and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey says he wants to know who first authorized extra scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

The ranking Republican and Democrat on the committee sent a letter last week to acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller asking 41 questions.

The letter refers to an inspector general's report that found improper screening of groups began in 2010, stopped in 2011, and then began again early in 2012.

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Government & Politics
5:38 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Reform Activists Get Head Start on Campaign to Oust PA's Top Judge

Government reform activists say they’re getting a head start on their campaign against Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille.

The group Rock the Capital is listing 10 problems with Castille’s tenure, blasting the judge for what they  describe as unethical behavior and incompetence in running the state’s court system.

Report author and longtime activist Tim Potts said he wants to hold debate-like forums with the Chief Justice on judicial administration and ethics, and why he thinks Castille should not get to stay on the bench.

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Government & Politics
11:19 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Polls Show Rising Support for Legalizing Medical Marijuana in PA

Gov. Tom Corbett won’t be budged by public opinion polls when it comes to marijuana.

Support is high for legalizing the drug when obtained with a doctor’s prescription.

But Corbett has said making medical marijuana legal will not rule out abuse of the drug, because prescription drugs are abused now.  

"This is a gateway to many other drugs," he said. "I believe we have a drug problem in this country. We have a drug problem in the state of Pennsylvania."

Corbett made his remarks on the Radio Pennsylvania “Ask the Governor” program.

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State Government
3:30 am
Mon May 20, 2013

PA Senate Dems Push Medicaid Expansion with Procedural Maneuver

State Senate Democrats are trying to compel the state to participate in a Medicaid expansion by using what's called a discharge resolution.

Senate staffers on both sides of the aisle are at a loss to remember the last time this kind of maneuver was successful. It doesn't preclude the majority party from sidestepping a vote on the measure in question.

But that's not stopping Sen. Vincent Hughes.

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State Government
6:01 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

Open Records Chief Calls Charter Schools Scofflaws

The head of the state's Office of Open Records is pointing a finger at public charter schools for being the "cancer" of the state's Right-to-Know law.

The testimony comes as lawmakers are in the midst of an effort to tweak the state's five-year-old law, which lets citizens request government records starting with the presumption that all such documents are public, putting the burden of proof on agencies, not citizens.

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George M. Leader, 1918-2013
4:28 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Family, Friends Gather to Remember Former Gov. George Leader

Family, friends and fixtures of state politics are remembering former Pennsylvania Gov. George Leader for being a tireless tinkerer — a man inspired by new ideas and always ready to go on to the next thing.

Leader died at age 95 last week. At a memorial service Thursday in Hershey, Dauphin County, his children recounted stories of their father and poked fun at his memory, at turns resisting and then contributing to a growing legend about one of the state’s most beloved governors.

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Liquor Privatization
6:31 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Second of Trio of Liquor Hearings: One Big Wish List

The chairman of a key Senate panel all but called a time of death for liquor privatization — at least, the effort to pass a measure before July.

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State Government
2:44 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Plan to Raise State Judges’ Mandatory Retirement Age Advances

State judges in Pennsylvania are one step closer to being allowed to serve until age 75 before they must retire.

A state House panel has approved a measure to increase the mandatory retirement age by five years.

Supporters say it strikes the right balance – updating the age limit for the first time since 1968, without increasing it to the point it would severely limit turnover in the courts.

Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery County) notes changing the mandatory retirement age would require amending the state constitution.

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State Government
6:34 am
Tue May 14, 2013

In Open Records Debate, a Case for Being Less Business-Friendly

The same senator who sponsored legislation creating the 5-year-old Office of Open Records has drafted revisions to the state's Right-to-Know law - the "most critical" proposed change being one that would keep commercial users from exploiting the law on the cheap.

Local government officials have said for years the passage of the Right-to-Know law has resulted in a tidal wave of records requests.

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Medicaid Expansion
6:30 am
Mon May 13, 2013

Lawmakers Say Time Nearly Up For Mulling Medicaid Expansion

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle in the state Senate are noting the time is fast approaching to make a final decision about a potential expansion of Medicaid.

For months, the Corbett administration has insisted that the door is not closed to such a move.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi - not exactly a public cheerleader for the move - said last week the governor needs to decide soon whether he'll allow hundreds of thousands more Pennsylvanians to enroll in the program.

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State Government
3:57 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

Corbett Hesitant to Rank Legislative To-Do List

Gov. Tom Corbett is reluctant to pull any legislative issue from the very top of his crowded agenda.

But other legislative leaders appear more than happy to do it for him.

The governor has said he wants four things done before lawmakers leave for their summer recess: a budget, liquor privatization, a transportation funding package and an approved overhaul of the state’s two pension plans and the debt that comes with them.  

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State Government
6:14 am
Fri May 10, 2013

Lawmaker Floats Idea of Outlawed Bond for State Pension Debt

One state lawmaker is raising the controversial idea of borrowing money to help put a dent in the state's $47 billion unfunded pension liability.

Rep. Glen Grell (R-Cumberland), who's been working on pension overhaul proposals, has suggested one way to pay down some of the state's pension debt would be to issue a pension obligation bond - not as a way to cover required state contributions to the two pension plans, but as a way to borrow money at a better rate and produce some savings.

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Liquor Privatization
6:21 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Poll Shows Public Less Keen on Liquor Privatization

Public support may be waning for a plan to sell off the state's wine and liquor stores.

It's the issue on the governor's to-do list that is furthest along in the Legislature, but a new Franklin & Marshall College poll notes support for it has dropped by six points among surveyed voters since February - from 53 percent in a February poll to 47 percent in a May poll.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

Still, more respondents support privatization than oppose it.

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Government & Politics
6:17 am
Thu May 9, 2013

PA Supreme Court Upholds State House and Senate Districts on Second Try

After more than a year of legal challenges, the state has new district lines for the House and Senate. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has unanimously ruled to uphold the state Legislature’s second stab at drawing new districts.

The maps were challenged by several groups – among them, a piano teacher and self-styled redistricting savant who drew her own maps to show there was a better way.

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State Pensions
6:18 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Three Months Later, Corbett's Pension Plan Takes Shape in Legislation

State House and Senate lawmakers have stepped up to sponsor legislation to advance the governor’s plan to overhaul the state’s two pension systems.

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Transportation
4:47 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

State Transportation Funding Bill Chugs Along

A $2.5 billion transportation funding bill that would increase vehicle fees, moving violation fines, and lift the cap on a tax that could lead to higher gas prices has gained a key state Senate committee’s approval.

Money raised from the measure would be used to repair Pennsylvania’s aging roads and bridges, as well as mass transit, ports, and bicycle lane planning.

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State Government
11:59 am
Tue May 7, 2013

House Passes 'Delaware Loophole' Fix and Assorted Tax Cuts

A bill to close the so-called Delaware loophole while lowering other taxes on corporations has passed the state House by a vote of 129 to 65.

The measure aims to capture revenue from companies that have transferred money from commonwealth subsidiaries to corporations in Delaware – a state without corporate taxes.

House Democratic leaders criticized the proposal for using an approach they say wouldn’t actually close the loophole.

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Government
10:28 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

State Lawmakers Want to Keep Wild Boar in Hunters' Crosshairs

One man's nuisance is another man's meal: a tussle over who should regulate wild hogs in the commonwealth is prompting legislation — and a few jokes.

Wild boar hunts at any of the roughly 20 wild boar game preserves throughout the commonwealth can run several hundred dollars apiece — and more when hunters actually bag a boar. It's the kind of economic activity that state lawmakers are trying to protect with legislation that would preempt a move to ban the wild hogs.

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Agriculture
6:52 am
Thu May 2, 2013

Senate Bill Would Restrict Sharing of Undercover Farm Footage

One state Senator wants to make it a crime for animal rights activists to share undercover footage of farms with anyone but law enforcement.

Sen. Mike Brubaker (R-Lancaster) said Wednesday he's drafting a measure to allow people to take photos and videos of farms without the consent of the owner and hold the records indefinitely.

Under the measure, he said such photos and videos could only be given to state and local police officers, as well as humane society enforcement officers.

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Business
4:14 pm
Wed May 1, 2013

Some Employers See Merit in Corbett's 'Drug Tests' Comment

Some employers say finding job applicants who can clear drug tests is a real concern, though it may not be as large a contributor to the state's 7.9 percent unemployment rate as a recent comment by Gov. Tom Corbett would suggest.

"There are many employers that say 'We're looking for people, but we can't find anybody that has passed a drug test, a lot of them,'" Corbett said on the Radio Pennsylvania show Ask the Governor. "And that's a concern for me, because we're having a serious problem with that."

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Liquor Privatization
10:02 am
Wed May 1, 2013

First Senate Hearing Doesn't Bode Well for Liquor Plan

Sen. Chuck McIlhinney has said he’s working to find consensus on a liquor privatization proposal, but you wouldn’t know it from his Tuesday committee hearing on the issue.

The chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee plays a central role in whether the House-approved plan to phase out state wine and spirits stores advances in the Senate. Tuesday marked the first of what he says will be three hearings on the issue.

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