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
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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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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