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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Pennsylvania
8:08 am
Tue June 24, 2014

In Review of Sandusky Case, Kane Sees Flaws in Prosecution, But No Politics

A long-awaited review of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case has exonerated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett of suggestions the investigation was slowed by political calculations. But state Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she still sees flaws in the prosecution and is openly inviting speculation on how it was handled.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Despite Bipartisan Backing, LGBT Protections Stalled

Passage is looking unlikely this year for a bill to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians.

The measure would outlaw firing someone from his or her job, evicting someone from his or her home, or not seating people at a restaurant on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Gov. Tom Corbett supports it, as do a bipartisan group of state lawmakers.

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Veterans
7:48 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Plan For Statewide Veterans Courts Met With Some Skepticism

Veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse could ping-pong through the criminal justice system for years without a support system that recognizes common problems facing former members of the military.

That’s the premise of Pennsylvania’s veterans treatment courts, which started as county initiatives several years ago to help the state’s veteran population — the fifth largest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  

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Government & Politics
4:47 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Corbett Shrugs Off June 30 Budget Deadline

Gov. Tom Corbett says he’ll make do with a late budget this year and possibly renege on his no-taxes campaign pledge.  

“Given the difficulty of this budget, I have allowed — I have informed — the legislators, we need to get this done and we need to get it done right, rather than quickly,” said Corbett at a news conference Tuesday. “So, if we are not able to finish by June 30, we are not able to finish by June 30.”

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Government & Politics
7:58 am
Tue June 17, 2014

House, Senate GOP Leaders Not Expecting To Meet End-Of-June Budget Deadline

It’s shaping up to be a longer-than-usual work calendar for state lawmakers negotiating the commonwealth’s budget.

House and Senate Republican leaders aren’t expecting to meet the state constitution’s end-of-June budget deadline.

“It’s unlikely that we will finish our work by June 30,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said he told his caucus’s members. “Certainly be prepared for at least the first week in July.”

When pressed for more details (for example: just how far should lawmakers and staff push back holiday plans?), Pileggi was reticent.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon June 16, 2014

In Harrisburg, The Debate Over Construction Codes Persists

A debate is raging over ways to update the various codes that govern construction in Pennsylvania.

A new code requiring sprinklers in a building — is it a life saver or a costly mandate? The answer to that question depends on whether you make your living building homes or selling sprinklers.

Every three years, a state review panel is faced with hundreds of new model codes to adopt or reject. The state Senate has passed a proposal to give the panel more time (two years instead of one) to consider each code.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Trade Group Says Survey Links Drug Use To Job Vacancies

A manufacturing trade group says a new survey links drug use to unfilled jobs in Pennsylvania, though it doesn't catapult the issue out of the realm of anecdotes.

The Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association says the conclusion of a commissioned survey is that one-third of manufacturing job applicants fail or decline to take drug tests.

It's actually one-third of company executives surveyed who say drug tests foiled new hires.

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Government & Politics
1:00 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Senate Mulls Plan To Boost Affordable Housing

Affordable housing hasn’t been an agenda-topper for state lawmakers this year faced with too many line items and not enough money. But a bipartisan group of senators are backing a plan that could boost residential housing stock by letting the real estate market do the heavy lifting.  

The state’s one percent tax on real estate transfers is being eyed as a way to pay for it.

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Government & Politics
7:33 am
Thu June 12, 2014

With Dismal Revenue Outlook, Party Leaders Warm To Each Other

Revenue updates continue to leave state lawmakers cold, but partisan tensions may be starting to thaw as leaders sense tough decisions ahead.

The news is bad and not getting better for anyone interested in finishing a state budget by the end of June. April tax collections were down by hundreds of millions of dollars, followed by a May haul that came in roughly $100 million below estimate. On Wednesday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) said June revenues are expected to contribute to the growing deficit.

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Government & Politics
7:46 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Plan To Reduce Penn State Board Goes To Full Senate

The full Senate will take up a measure to reduce the size of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, thereby responding to criticisms of how the university handled the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.

Under the proposal, Penn State’s current governing body would go from 30 to 23 voting members. Changes, by attrition, would go into effect in 2016.

Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) proposed the overhaul to address concerns voiced in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal.

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Government & Politics
5:08 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Medical Marijuana Could Get Senate Panel Vote Soon

A measure to legalize medical marijuana in Pennsylvania could be ready for a state Senate committee vote this month, supporters say.

The bill would set up state oversight of doctors to prescribe marijuana for a range of illnesses, said Sen. Mike Folmer (R-Lebanon), the Republican leading the charge for medical marijuana.

“Whether you’re suffering from epilepsy, diabetes, various forms of cancer, post-traumatic stress syndrome – I could go on,” Folmer said.

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School Costs
4:49 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

PA Schools Facing Rising Costs, Dwindling Resources

A survey of traditional Pennsylvania school districts paints a grim picture for the coming academic year, with most respondents bracing for higher costs and fewer resources.

56 percent of school districts in the state responded to the study conducted by the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO). The survey, conducted annually since 2010, did not include responses from public charter or cyber charter schools.

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Pension reform
10:00 am
Thu June 5, 2014

PA House Leader Leaves Door Open to Defer Pension Payments

The Pennsylvania House Majority Leader isn’t ruling out a move to trim the state’s scheduled payments toward its pension debt.

“There’s not an appetite to reduce the collars (scheduled payments) in the House,” said Representative Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), as he stressed the need for an overhaul to pension benefits for future employees.

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Government & Politics
10:39 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Senate Panel Considers Online Gambling

State lawmakers are toying with the idea of allowing online bets as a way to boost state tax revenue.

Making online gambling legal could yield $68 million its first year for the state, and $110 million annually in later years. That’s according to policy consultants who assessed Pennsylvania’s gambling landscape for the state Legislature.

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Government & Politics
5:04 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

State Senate To Consider Smaller Government Across All Branches

Fewer legislators, fewer judges and no lieutenant governor — that’s the vision approved by a state Senate committee this week.

Proposed constitutional amendments to shrink the size of government across the three branches have been sent to the full Senate for consideration. Under the measures, the House would go from 203 to 153 members, the Senate would lose five seats, two judgeships each would be eliminated from the state Superior Court and Supreme Court. The lieutenant governor would also get the axe.

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Government & Politics
8:42 am
Tue June 3, 2014

PA Tax Collections Came In $108 Million Below Expectations Last Month

Pennsylvania tax collections last month fell short by about $108 million, or five and a half percent.

The report wasn’t unexpected, but still came as unwelcome news for state lawmakers facing a budget deficit of more than $1 billion. Less than a month remains to hammer out a spending plan for the next fiscal year.

Republicans, who control the General Assembly, still aren’t sure how they’ll bridge the gap.

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Government & Politics
10:55 am
Mon June 2, 2014

State Pension Beat: Of Debt And Design Changes

Democratic and Republican state lawmakers differ as to whether it matters that a plan to change pension benefits doesn't take a big bite out of the massive debt the state has already accrued.

The Republican plan to change pension benefits for future state and school employees would bring savings — just not the kind that would help the state pay off pension debt much faster than existing law requires.

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Government & Politics
7:13 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Budget Talks Begin As Revenue Shortfall Gets Wider

State lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week for the relatively action-packed month of June. It’s a time reserved for finalizing a state budget before the July 1 deadline, and all signs point to a tough road ahead.

A projected $1.2 billion deficit is likely to grow, as May tax collections have been lackluster.

“May’s collection numbers, to date, have been below what we would’ve hoped,” said GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi. “So we’re very closely watching how the month of May will close.”

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Government & Politics
7:06 am
Thu May 29, 2014

Pension Overhaul Plan Could Save $11B For State Over 30 Years, Actuary Says

House lawmakers have the actuarial analysis they need to start collecting votes on a measure to overhaul the state’s pension plans.

A state commission central to the debate over changing public pension benefits in Pennsylvania says its consulting actuary finds that the amended House proposal would save more than $11 billion for the commonwealth over a 30-year span.

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Government & Politics
7:00 am
Thu May 29, 2014

Immigrants In PA Seek Change To Obtain Driver’s Licenses

For a decade, Pennsylvania allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Now immigrants in the commonwealth face long odds to restore the old rule.

The undocumented Pennsylvania residents who gathered Wednesday at the state Capitol – some with U.S.-born children, some whose spouses had been deported – said that as Washington dithers on overhauling immigration laws, state lawmakers could do something to help immigrants contribute to the commonwealth’s economy.

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Government & Politics
9:08 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Fleck Says His Primary Close-Call Was About His Sexual Orientation, Not His Voting Record

Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state lawmaker says he nearly lost his reelection effort because of voters’ reaction to his sexual orientation, not his voting record.

Rep. Mike Fleck (R-Huntingdon) has unofficially lost the Republican primary for his House district, but has won the Democratic primary by a margin of 15 write-in votes. The Department of State, which oversees elections, is expected to certify the results next week, making them final.

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Government & Politics
9:03 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Activists Renew Their Push To Ban Public Officials From Accepting Gifts

Government reform activists say they haven’t forgotten state lawmakers’ pledges to address the blind spots in Pennsylvania law on accepting gifts.

On Tuesday in a relatively deserted state Capitol, Harrisburg’s most avid gadflies renewed their push to ban public officials from accepting any gifts.

“This has to be statutory. It has to be legislation. It has to impact all three branches,” said Eric Epstein, of Rock the Capital.

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Transportation
3:30 am
Mon May 26, 2014

Precautions In Place To Protect Electronic Roadside Signs, PennDOT Says

PennDOT says it has taken precautions to protect electronic roadside signs from pranksters seeking to change the message.

Numerous sign hacks have appeared across the country for years, drawing attention to security shortcomings.

But a spokeswoman for PennDOT says the state’s electronic signs and highway advisory radios are protected with passwords as well as physical locking systems.

Chuck Davis, who teaches ethical hacking and computer forensics at Harrisburg University, said that’s probably adequate.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon May 26, 2014

NJ, PA Face Similar Pressures To Defer Pension Payments

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are caught between a rock and a hard place: The budget shortfalls that make deferring pension fund contributions so tempting, and the credit downgrades that await them if they skip more scheduled payments on ballooning pension debt.

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Government & Politics
3:54 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Advocates Hope Gay Marriage Ruling Will Lend Momentum To Anti-Bias Legislation

Gay rights advocates are hoping the same-sex marriage ruling in Pennsylvania paves the way for laws to prohibit bias against residents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.  

Identical bills in the state House and Senate would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pennsylvanians from being discriminated in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Equality PA director Ted Martin said about 30 percent of the state has such protections in place at the municipal level, but his group is seeking a state law.

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Election 2014
9:26 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Wolf Wins Four-Way Democratic Primary For Governor

Pennsylvania Democrats have chosen millionaire businessman Tom Wolf to take on Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in the fall.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

Tom Wolf, the man in the Jeep from York County, has won the Democratic nomination to face incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in the November general election.

Wolf took roughly 58 percent of the Democratic vote, with none of his opponents cresting the 20 percent mark.

To a few hundred supporters at Santander Stadium in York, Wolf said he’s running against the established record of the Corbett administration, which he said has made funding decisions that “hollow out” the commonwealth’s schools.

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Election 2014
3:30 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Democratic Candidates For Lt. Gov. Make Their Pitches

The Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor sit fairly high on the ballot, right below those for governor. But for all the attention they get, you'd think they're at the bottom of the ticket.

One of the benefits of the relative anonymity of the lieutenant governor is that all five Democratic candidates have different ideas of what the position should entail.

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Election 2014
8:29 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Democrats For Governor Map No Clear Path Out Of Pension Debt

The four Democrats running for Pennsylvania Governor (upper Left to lower right- Tom Wolf, Allyson Schwartz, Katie McGinty, Rob McCord) make one last push for votes ahead of Tuesday's primary.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

The four Democratic gubernatorial candidates have talked about their personal stories, their support for greater education funding, and finding ways to generate revenue.

But judging by the warnings from credit rating agencies, the largest financial headache facing the commonwealth is what it owes in future pension payouts to state and school retirees. And when it comes to paying off that debt, the Democratic candidates aren't exactly bubbling over with ideas.

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Election 2014
4:09 am
Tue May 13, 2014

In Final Debate, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Assume Familiar Roles

With few policy differences among them, the four candidates running for the Democratic nomination for governor assumed familiar positions at their final debate before the May 20 primary.

Tom Wolf, far ahead of the competition according to recent polls, offered high-brow answers to challenges that he’s not qualified to be governor after running a business in York and being state revenue secretary for two years.

“I think if I’m unqualified — someone like me is unqualified — that’s a serious indictment of our democracy,” Wolf said.

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Government & Politics
3:16 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

In Harrisburg, Impeachment Hearing Begins With A Walk-Out

A state House committee hearing to consider the impeachment of Attorney General Kathleen Kane was punctuated with a rare walkout by Democratic lawmakers.

Democrats made two attempts to put the kibosh on the meeting held by the House State Government Committee. The second adjournment effort came from Democratic Representative Mike O’Brien of Philadelphia. A terse exchange with Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) followed. Metcalfe asked security to show O’Brien the door.

“Please remove Rep. O’Brien from this hearing,” said Metcalfe.

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