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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Electoral Votes
6:36 am
Wed March 20, 2013

With Letter, Sen. Casey Chimes in on Plan to Change Electoral Votes Tally

“Not a priority.”

That’s what you’ll hear most often when knocking around the Capitol asking about a controversial state Senate proposal to change the way Pennsylvania awards its electoral votes.

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Undocumented Students
4:31 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Undocumented Students Urge State Lawmakers to Grant Them In-State Tuition

Undocumented students gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday to urge lawmakers to grant them in-state tuition at Pennsylvania’s 18 state-owned and state-supported universities, citing their struggles to advance their education after high school without the same help afforded their peers.

Carina Ambartsoumian, 25, said her parents came to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1993, fleeing religious persecution and hoping to attain refugee status. She said her family’s papers were not recognized by the newly independent Ukraine after the Soviet Union dissolved.

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Government & Politics
9:06 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Former PA Governors Call for Judges to be Appointed, Not Elected

For years, a dogged group of advocates has called for appointing appellate court judges in a multi-step process called merit selection, instead of holding partisan elections.

Supporters say relying on judicial elections all but ensures that judges aren’t independent arbiters of reason, but adept fundraisers.  

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Liquor Privatization
4:20 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Amended Version of Corbett's Liquor Plan Passes Committee Vote

After more than two hours of strong debate, the Pennsylvania House Liquor Control Committee has approved a plan to privatize the commonwealth’s liquor system.

Republican Representative John Taylor chairs the panel and presided over questions and answers on an amendment that would scale back Governor Tom Corbett’s privatization plan.

The 14-10 vote fell along party lines.

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Liquor Privatization
3:30 am
Mon March 18, 2013

House GOP Says Tweaked Liquor Plan Would 'Make History'

House Republicans are still holding onto a goal of passing a liquor privatization plan in their chamber by early April, though it may not look like the governor’s original proposal to unload the more than 600 state liquor stores.

Democratic state Senator Anthony Williams of Philadelphia asserted Monday that Republicans have not coalesced around Governor Corbett’s liquor privatization plan, noting that many GOP legislators are interested first in modernizing the existing liquor system.

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State Government
3:30 am
Mon March 18, 2013

State Lawmakers Mull Name Change for Department of Public Welfare

A state House committee is expected to vote on a plan to change the name of the state Department of Public Welfare.

A plan aiming to change the agency’s name never made it past the House Committee on Human Services last session.

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Charter School Funding
1:31 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Charter School Groups Fighting Funding Reducing Proposals

Charter school groups are giving bad grades to legislative proposals that would reduce what they receive in funding from their local school districts.

One of the more tense exchanges in a recent state House committee hearing on proposals that would mean less funding for charter and cyber charter schools came during a back and forth on the quality of the education provided at the publicly-funded, privately-run schools.

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School Funding
5:34 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Cyber Charter Schools Raise Larger Questions About Public Ed Funding

As state lawmakers consider proposed changes to funding cyber charter schools, larger problems with how public education is funded are drawing attention. 

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Election 2013
10:08 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Poll Shows Corbett Losing to Potential Democratic Challengers

A new statewide poll measuring how Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett would fare against several possible Democratic challengers in 2014 finds Corbett might need all the time he can get between now and the general election.  That vote is more than a year and a half away.

If the gubernatorial election were tomorrow, a Quinnipiac University poll predicts Corbett would lose by nine points to former Democratic congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak.

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Transportation
3:06 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Eight Charged in T-Pike "Pay to Play" Scandal

Eight people are being charged for their alleged involvement in what the state attorney general is calling a “pay to play” scheme at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane said a grand jury investigation, which began in 2009 after public complaints, found that the Turnpike Commission has been awash with improper influence.

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Government & Politics
9:34 am
Wed March 13, 2013

Genetically Modified Foods Might be Required to Carry Label in PA

Sam Bernhardt, a Pennsylvania organizer for Food & Water Watch speaks at a capitol rally for new GMO labeling legislation.
Credit Mary Wilson/90.5 WESA

Pennsylvania could follow in the footsteps of a popular retailer if one state lawmaker’s idea to require labels on genetically engineered foods takes root.

The national grocery store chain Whole Foods did something unprecedented in the country recently when it announced it would label all products containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in its U.S. and Canada stores by 2018.

A Pennsylvania Senate proposal would require the same of food manufacturers and distributors selling products in the commonwealth.

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Economy & Business
12:40 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

PA Unemployment Numbers Tell Only Half the Story

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate in January rose to 8.2 percent and is now at its highest point since October 2010 and Democrats in the state are hoping to use the numbers as political fodder.

The numbers were released Friday afternoon. By Monday morning, Senate Democrats were pointing to the report as all the proof they need to show the Corbett administration’s policies have failed to spur investment and, in turn, job creation.

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Medicaid
9:57 am
Fri March 8, 2013

Medicaid Debate in PA Could be Shifting

As state lawmakers wrap up three weeks of budget hearings in Harrisburg, the issue of a possible Medicaid expansion has come up framed as a matter of dollars and cents. But the possible political ramifications also loom over the issue.

Democrats have been hammering the governor on the issue of a Medicaid expansion. They support it and, in recent weeks, it looks like Corbett could be swayed. He is expected to meet with federal authorities to go over what an expansion could mean for Pennsylvania.

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Government & Politics
9:25 am
Fri March 8, 2013

Interpretation of Tobacco Settlement Ruling Begins in PA

The fate of a program receiving money from the state’s tobacco settlement is unknown, as are the Corbett administration’s next steps on how to allocate the special funding.

A judge deemed unconstitutional two state laws that diverted tobacco settlement money away from adultBasic, the commonwealth’s bygone health insurance program for adults. It was shut down in 2011 after Governor Corbett said it was no longer affordable.

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Medicaid Expansion
10:53 am
Thu March 7, 2013

No Medicaid Expansion Until PA Governor Meets with Feds

Talks on a possible Medicaid expansion on Pennsylvania appear to depend on a meeting that is not yet on the governor’s schedule.  In the meantime, state lawmakers are bickering over dueling cost estimates and whether to trust a federal funding formula for Medicaid expansion.

Governor Tom Corbett said one of the reasons he is choosing to not expand Medicaid “at this time” is because he’s unsure about relying on the federal government to foot the bill, now and in the future.

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Government & Politics
9:27 pm
Wed March 6, 2013

PA Senators Heap Praise on New DPW Chief

A state Senate hearing offered lawmakers a chance to heap anticipatory praise on the state Department of Public Welfare's brand-new chief.

The chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee had to ask the audience to refrain from applause - not a common request during budget hearings.

Nevertheless, lawmakers on the panel found other ways to gush. One called acting secretary Bev Mackereth tremendous. Another said she's a breath of fresh air.

Not Democratic state Senator Larry Farnese of Philadelphia.

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Liquor Privatization
11:00 am
Tue March 5, 2013

The Bell for Round One of the 2013 Liquor Privatization Fight has Sounded

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize the state’s liquor stores is taking shape in the form of legislation.  A plan was introduced in Harrisburg Tuesday that if nothing else will begin another round of debate.

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Environment & Energy
11:00 am
Tue March 5, 2013

Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Wild PA Deer, Game Commission Unsure of Response

The state Game Commission is still working to determine how it will respond to an apparent outbreak of chronic wasting disease among Pennsylvania’s wild deer population.

The brain illness, fatal to deer but not harmful to humans, has been detected in the wild in Pennsylvania. It’s the first time the disease has been found in the commonwealth’s wild deer population in 15 years of testing.

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