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.

Pages

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.

Read more
Liquor Privatization
4:36 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Administration Says Troopers Would Get More Money Under Liquor Plan

Law enforcement groups are asking state lawmakers to consider the impact liquor privatization would have on their efforts and adjust budgets accordingly.

The Pennsylvania State Troopers Association (PSTA) and the state’s Liquor Enforcement Association didn’t come down on either side of the liquor privatization issue. But they did chime in with their hope for more money if a plan goes to the governor’s desk that would result in a proliferation of alcohol retailers.

Read more
Liquor Privatization
6:31 am
Tue April 30, 2013

Lawmaker: Liquor Privatization Distracting from State Budget

On the eve of a state Senate committee's first of three hearings on liquor privatization, some might say the issue of selling off the state wine and spirits stores is ripe for discussion.

Not the Senate President Pro Tem.

Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) said Monday he's "a little frustrated" that the liquor privatization issue is eclipsing what he thinks should be the central focus right now: the state budget, which is due in two months' time.

Read more
Politics
3:12 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

Poll Shows Corbett's Approval Rating Still Low

A new poll finds Gov. Tom Corbett is stacking up poorly against real and potential Democratic challengers in the 2014 gubernatorial election.  

The Quinnipiac University survey of more than 12,000 registered voters pegs the governor’s disapproval rating at 47 percent, with 38 percent of those surveyed approving of his job performance.

Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa said although some argue the governor has time to buff up his image, the results are far from meaningless.  

Read more
Higher Education
6:25 am
Mon April 29, 2013

State Grants for College Students Expected to Increase

Pennsylvanians applying for financial assistance for college have reason to hope for more money this year.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency has run the numbers, and all signs point to grant awards going up for applicants looking for help covering the costs of college.

PHEAA says it expects the maximum grant award to be $4,363, up by more than $150 from last year.
The average grant is expected to be more than $3,000, also more than last year's average.

Read more
Gun Debate
3:10 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

Poll Shows Toomey's More Popular Than Ever

If anyone is still asking whether Republican Pat Toomey did any damage to his reputation, a new survey puts the question to bed: Nope.

The Quinnipiac University poll shows the state’s junior U.S. senator has emerged from his foray into the gun control debate with his highest ever approval rating.

Read more
Schools
3:38 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

PA Lawmaker Wants More Comprehensive School Bullying Response Plans

State House lawmakers are struggling to find a way to help schools deal with bullying among school-age children.  

Republican Rep. Dan Truitt of Chester County says he’s not sure schools are taking bullying seriously, given the way they’re responding to existing state mandates.

"Our current state law requires school districts to report incidents of bullying to the state just in terms of the numbers, how many incidents they had," he said. "And a number of them, about 200 school districts, report none at all."

Read more
Liquor Privatization
9:39 am
Thu April 25, 2013

Pro-liquor Privatization Ad Homes in on Key Senator

A conservative group is turning up the heat on a key state Republican senator who’s voiced skepticism about the liquor privatization plan approved by the House.

A television ad launched by the conservative group Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, which doesn’t disclose its funders, paints Bucks County state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney as being against selling off the state stores.

Read more
General Assembly
4:10 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Legislative Audit Finds More Spent, Less Stashed, and Few Recommendations Heeded

The annual audit report on the General Assembly’s internal finances shows lawmakers spent nearly $307 million last fiscal year and have continued a number of practices that auditors discourage.

Auditors are making some familiar recommendations to the General Assembly about how it manages its money. Legislative staff say 36 checkbooks are scattered throughout General Assembly offices. Auditors found they were riddled with errors, and at least one of them was used to pay an employee’s parking ticket.

Read more
Medicaid Expansion
9:59 am
Wed April 24, 2013

Study: Medicaid Expansion Would Net Billions, But Unknowns Remain

A new study finds expanding Medicaid eligibility in Pennsylvania would yield billions of dollars in federal funding and result in hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state tax revenue over the next eight years.

The Independent Fiscal Office report says the expansion would mean big cost-savings for the commonwealth — due largely to the number of people whose medical coverage would be picked up by the feds.

But baked into the study are several assumptions necessary for completing a fiscal analysis, said IFO director Matthew Knittel.

Read more
Marcellus Shale
3:14 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

House Dems, Environmentalists Seek to Block Drilling in Loyalsock State Forest

State House Democrats and environmental advocates are asking the Corbett administration to block natural gas drilling in a state forest that straddles three counties in the thick of Marcellus Shale country.

Anadarko Petroleum owns subsurface rights to tens of thousands of acres of the Loyalsock State Forest, but it could only access the shale below by way of scattered chunks of land that also happen to be ecologically sensitive.

Now, some lawmakers want Anadarko’s request for an agreement that would allow drilling in the forest to be turned down.

Read more
Taxes
12:04 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

House Readies for Vote on Bill to Close Corporate Tax Loophole

A bill crafted to close a corporate tax loophole in Pennsylvania in a way that’s most palatable to businesses is teed up for consideration by the state House.

The so-called Delaware loophole has bedeviled legislators and governors for years. Its name comes from the practice of corporations that transfer money from commonwealth affiliates to a company in Delaware — a state with no corporate taxes.

There are different ways to go about closing the loophole, and therein lies much of the conflict over a bill that’s passed a committee vote.

Read more
State Supreme Court
5:12 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Corbett Offers Little Clues on State Supreme Court Vacancy

Gov. Tom Corbett isn’t giving any indication of what kind of influence the Senate Democrats may have over who he’ll nominate to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

The minority caucus will be crucial, since confirmation requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.   

Last week, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Corbett a list of five names – all Republican judges – from which to choose to guarantee a swift confirmation process.

Read more
Politics
7:46 pm
Fri April 19, 2013

Toomey Strikes Conciliatory, Final Note on Gun Debate

For Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, speaking to the annual conservative confab known as the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference days after the end of his brief foray into the gun debate was like heading into the belly of the beast.

The senator worked the crowd, shaking hands with people who politely told him they disagreed with his support for expanding background checks on firearm purchases. Introductory remarks that touched on Toomey’s failed amendment elicited sounds of dissent from the seated audience.

Read more
Courts
10:10 am
Fri April 19, 2013

State Lawmakers Mull Changes to Mandatory Retirement Age for Judges

The state constitutional mandate that Pennsylvania judges retire by age 70 is the subject of arguments before the Supreme Court next month, but that's not stopping state lawmakers from taking a swing at modifying mandatory retirement.

Given average life expectancy and the kinds of complex work that might be easier for people long on life experience, one House Republican is asking: Why are we kicking judges off the bench at 70?

Read more
Campaign Financing
6:38 am
Fri April 19, 2013

State Senate Passes Campaign Finance Proposal to House

A proposal aiming to provide more transparency to campaign finance data has passed the state Senate.

Candidates for statewide office and the General Assembly would have to file their campaign finance reports electronically under the plan. They, along with political action committees, could also trigger more frequent filing deadlines if they raise $10,000 or more in a calendar year.

Read more
Gun Laws
3:33 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Senate Blocks Expanded Gun Sale Background Checks

Updated Post: 4:56 p.m.

Senate Republicans, backed by rural-state Democrats, blocked legislation Wednesday to tighten restrictions on the sale of firearms, rejecting personal pleas made by families of the victims of last winter's mass elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Attempts to ban assault-style rifles and high capacity ammunition magazines also faced certain defeat in a series of showdown votes four months after a gunman killed 20 elementary school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Read more
Collective Bargaining
10:00 am
Wed April 17, 2013

PA Cities and Unions at Odds over Arbitration Law

Municipalities are calling for changes to the state’s law on collective bargaining arbitration.

The 1968 statute sets the rules for how contract awards for police and firefighters must be decided if they come to an impasse with the city, since such public safety workers aren't allowed to go on strike.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlawski said the modifications being suggested are minor, but important - like requiring the arbitrator to consider what kind of award a city would be able to pay.

Read more
Transportation
3:30 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

$2.5 Billion Transportation Plan Gets Support from State Senate GOP

The chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee is introducing a plan that would hike motorist fees and some traffic ticket surcharges as a way of coming up with $2.5 billion for transportation infrastructure.

The measure marks the first legislative follow-up to the governor’s $1.8 billion funding plan, which many in industry and the legislature deemed to be too small.

But Republican Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County is giving Gov. Tom Corbett credit for taking the first step to roll out a funding proposal in the first place.   

Read more
Transportation
6:01 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Transportation Bill's Author Severs Ties with Senate Dems on Liquor

The long-awaited legislative follow-up to the governor’s own transportation funding plan is expected to be announced Tuesday.

Transportation Committee Republican Chair John Rafferty has been working on the issue for months, insisting that it won’t be a victim of what legislators refer to as linkage – trading votes on one issue for support on another.

Read more
Liquor Privatization
5:29 pm
Mon April 15, 2013

Some GOP Lawmakers Want Liquor Money for Transportation, Not Schools

A small group of state House Republicans say if a plan to sell off the state’s wine and spirits stores lands on the governor’s desk, they want money from the sales to go toward fixing roads and bridges.

The measure clashes with the Corbett administration’s own proposal to put liquor privatization revenue into a grant fund for schools.

But Republican Rep. Jerry Knowles of Berks County said he’s not trying to make waves.

"The governor has a good idea," Knowles said. "It’s just that I have a better idea. OK?"

Read more
PennDOT
9:59 am
Mon April 15, 2013

PennDOT Plays Musical Cars, and Takes Some Away

PennDOT is touting the savings resulting from smarter management of its vehicle fleet. The agency expects to save $4 million a year by changes that include reducing its fleet of state-assigned cars by 30 percent.

It's not a huge amount in an annual budget of more than $6 billion, but it's better than nothing.

"The bottom line is, is money is tight," said department spokesman Steve Chizmar. "So we have to look at every possible angle for additional efficiencies."

Read more
Tax Reform
4:05 pm
Fri April 12, 2013

Corbett Tax Plan Full of Promises, But Opponents Have Doubts

Gov. Tom Corbett's tax reform plan is getting a closer look from state lawmakers.

The proposals would lower the state’s corporate net income tax and complete the elimination of another tax on businesses.  

Department of Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser said the net effect will be more than $1 billion in new tax revenue over the next 17 years.  

"That comes from personal income growth, that comes from employment, and that comes from sales tax revenues that are derived from those who are now working that weren’t before," he said.

Read more
Abortion
6:43 am
Fri April 12, 2013

Bill Restricting Abortion Coverage No Long Shot, Says Senate GOP

A state Senate committee has passed a proposal to restrict abortion coverage in health insurance plans provided through Pennsylvania's federally mandated exchange.

Last session, similar measures passed the House and Senate independently, but neither one made it through the entire legislative gauntlet.

But with the 2014 operational date for health care exchanges right around the corner, Senate GOP spokesman Erik Arneson said this measure may go to the finish line.

Read more
Veterans Affairs
4:44 pm
Thu April 11, 2013

Sen. Casey Urges Feds to Speed Up Efforts to Fix VA Backlog

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is calling on the federal government to get regional offices that assist military veterans into shape.

The Democrat says the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have been too slow in responding to the concerns of the VA’s own inspector general, as well as veterans who have had to wait for months to receive disability benefits.  

Read more

Pages