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
8:19 am
Tue November 26, 2013

Congressman Dent: Broken Washington Might Be on the Mend

Republican Congressman Charlie Dent is spreading his message of dismay about polarization in the nation’s capital.

In a speech before the Pennsylvania Press Club, Dent said “today, Washington is broken.”

As evidence, he points to the recent government shutdown, inaction to redistribute sequestration cuts, and the Senate Democrats’ move to eliminate the use of the filibuster.

But Dent says some of his Republican colleagues who have been slow to accept compromise in the past may be coming around to the idea.

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Business
8:14 am
Tue November 26, 2013

'Taiwanese Tech Giant' Foxconn to Expand in PA

A company known as a “Taiwanese tech giant” is investing in Pennsylvania.  

Foxconn, a major supplier of Apple products, plans to spend $30 million in the commonwealth on what it’s calling a new “high end technology manufacturing facility.”

The company, alternately known as Hon Hai, will invest another $10 million into a joint research and development effort with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

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Government & Politics
2:21 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

For Some PA Lawmakers, Support for Transportation Plan Means Tough Elections Ahead

State lawmakers who voted to raise more than $2 billion in fees and gas taxes will have some explaining to do to conservative groups that keep close watch over tax votes in the Legislature.

Lawmakers who flipped to support the $2.3 billion plan are already being targeted by an anti-tax and limited government group based in Harrisburg.

Republican Rep. Stan Saylor of York County is among the members being singled out.

He said he’s already expecting a primary challenge in next year’s election.  

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Transportation
10:39 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Corbett Hails Passage of PA Highways Bill

After more than a year of discussion, the state has a transportation plan in place.

A $2.3 billion plan to fund roads, bridges, mass transit, airports, waterways, bike paths and more has passed the state House and heads to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Tom Corbett is hailing passage of new transportation bill, saying he perceived an urgent need to fix roads and bridges after he took office three years ago.

The Republican spoke Thursday shortly after legislative approval of a law to pump billions into transportation infrastructure and mass transit.

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Transportation
7:57 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Transportation Funding Plan Passes Senate, Heads Back to House

A $2.3 billion transportation infrastructure funding plan is headed back to the state House after it passed the Senate with bipartisan support.

Lawmakers are expected to take a concurring vote on it Thursday afternoon.

Senate Democrats were blocked from offering their own amendments to the bill.

Democratic state Sen. Jim Ferlo of Allegheny County says the plan includes a fund that will be used a lot like “walking around money,” or WAMs, which have been disparaged by Gov. Tom Corbett as an underhanded way of stewarding tax dollars.  

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Transportation
9:29 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

On Third Go, House Green-Lights Transportation Plan

A $2.3 billion amendment to a transportation funding plan passed a preliminary vote in the state House Tuesday night, within 24 hours of the House's rejection of the same measure, twice, amid concerns from tax-wary Republicans and labor-allied Democrats.

The vote was 104-95, though two Republicans who missed the final tally asked that their affirmative votes be noted in the record.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Pileggi Dismisses State Police’s Warnings About Expanding DNA Collection

One of the top Republicans in the state Senate is dismissing concerns from the State Police about a proposal to expand the state’s DNA collection is made law.

They say it would necessitate more funding from the commonwealth.

But GOP Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says he doesn’t think the people who staff the state’s public forensic labs are “unbiased” in their assessment of how much money they would need to handle a larger workload.

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Government & Politics
10:34 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Mismanaged Contract Delayed Pay to Home Care Workers, Audit Finds

An audit of the state Department of Public Welfare has found the consolidation of payroll services for home care workers was botched, leading to pay delays for at least 4,000 workers.

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says workers were the collateral damage when a contract went to a single payroll provider that was not ready for prime time.

"You gotta have better oversight of the program," he said. "That means there’s got to be real dates, there’s gotta be real timelines, real items to be met."

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Government & Politics
9:43 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Proposal to Legalize Gambling in Bars Heads Back to Senate

A proposal to legalize small-time gambling in bars has cleared the state House and will go back to the Senate for approval.
               
The measure would allow thousands of bars and taverns to offer small games of chance, like raffles and drawings.
               
The state would get 60 percent of revenue, and the hosting municipality would get a five percent cut.
               
The hosting bars and taverns would keep the rest.
               

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Government & Politics
6:22 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

House Committee Passes Endangered Species Legislation

A proposal to add regulatory oversight to the commissions designating endangered species and protected wild trout streams in Pennsylvania has passed out of a key state House committee.

It would give a regulatory review board of political appointees final approval over decisions to allow the state to protect certain species and streams.

Supporters, including natural gas companies and home builders, say it would provide a check and balance to the state’s independent commissions now in charge of the process.

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Government & Politics
10:50 am
Wed November 13, 2013

State Lawmakers Considering Expanding DNA Collection By Law Enforcement

A plan to expand the state’s DNA collection is under consideration by a state House committee.

The proposal would allow law enforcement to take DNA samples from people arrested for felonies and certain misdemeanor crimes before they are convicted.

Right now, state law allows only for such collection after conviction.

Supporters say the move would help close cases and exonerate innocent individuals.

But the state’s public DNA labs are already swamped, and Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. Scott Snyder is urging lawmakers to proceed with caution.  

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Government & Politics
3:29 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Proposal to Limit 'Agritainment' Liability Meets Resistance

A state House proposal to limit the liability of farmers hosting so-called “agritainment” on their property has run into some resistance.

The latest plan would limit the kind of lawsuits that can be filed against owners of agritourism attractions like hayrides, farm tours and pick-your-own-crop operations — but only if those attractions charge zero fees or ticket prices.

Pennsylvania Farm Bureau spokesman Mark O’Neill said the amendment, narrowly adopted on the House floor, defeats the purpose of the legislation.

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Health
3:30 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Study Shows PA's Home Health Care Industry Growing

A study of the economic impact of Pennsylvania's home health care industry shows the sector has a big financial footprint and is expected to grow larger yet.

The report was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, representing about 500 homecare and hospice providers. It finds the home-based health care industry contributed to nearly $22 billion in economic activity in the commonwealth last year, putting the sector just behind the state's medical schools and nursing homes in spending and jobs supported.

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Education
3:30 am
Mon November 11, 2013

State Senate Charter School Proposal Faces Criticism

Some education advocates are criticizing a state Senate proposal to revamp how public charter schools start, expand and receive funding because it would remove a check on the growth of the alternative schools.

A plan before a key legislative committee would allow charter schools to increase their enrollment without the approval of the school district that first authorized their charter.

David Lapp is a former charter school teacher and now a staff attorney with the Education Law Center.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon November 11, 2013

PA National Guard Encourages Soldiers to Seek Mental Health Treatment If Needed

On this Veterans Day, the Pennsylvania National Guard is encouraging service members to seek mental help if they need it — and disclose when they’re doing so.  

At a forum in Harrisburg recently, guard members acknowledged a “prevalent” misconception among soldiers that reporting they’re seeking help could disrupt their career or mean losing their security clearance.

Capt. Sarah Lambert is a coordinator for the Guard’s Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention program.

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Environment
4:07 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

House Committee Vote on Endangered Species Bill Likely Next Week

Environmentalists are standing firm in their opposition of adding more oversight to the process of designating endangered species in Pennsylvania.

The proposal is scheduled for a House committee vote next week.

It would make the two independent agencies charged with designating endangered species get approval from a state review board, as well as panels made up of state lawmakers.

Jeff Schmidt, with the Pennsylvania Sierra Club, says it will gut Pennsylvania’s process for protecting wildlife.

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Government & Politics
4:20 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

PA Settles Lawsuit Challenging Execution Witness Policy

Pennsylvania has settled a lawsuit that sought to force the commonwealth to allow witnesses to view the entire execution of condemned prisoners.

The agreement follows a federal judge’s order last fall that the state shall not prevent witnesses, including reporters, see the entire lethal injection process.

Vic Walczak is legal director for the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union, which worked on the case.

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Government & Politics
11:05 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Advocacy Group Says PA Needs a New Way to Select Judges

Advocates for a new way of selecting appellate court judges say the one statewide contest for Superior Court underscores their case that voters have too little information to responsibly elect judges.

The advocacy group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is pushing to replace elections with a new process called merit selection.

Under the proposed system, appellate judges would be vetted by an independent commission, nominated by the governor, and confirmed by the state Senate, before ultimately facing voters in retention elections.

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Government & Politics
1:21 am
Fri November 1, 2013

State Points to Better Dog Law Enforcement

After being blasted by animal rights advocates last year for lax enforcement of tough new dog kennel regulations, state officials are now touting their more recent record of regular inspections and frequent citations for illegal practices.

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Election 2014
7:37 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Corbett Approval Could Hinge on Medicaid

A new statewide poll shows there could be light at the end of a tunnel lined with low job performance ratings for Gov. Corbett.

The Franklin & Marshall College survey indicates Corbett's vision for health care may win over some sorely needed voters in advance of next year's gubernatorial election.

64 percent of respondents support expanding the state's Medicaid program to hundreds of thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians using federal money.

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Mass Transit Funding
10:01 am
Tue October 29, 2013

$100 Surcharge on Speeding Tickets Slowing Action on Transportation Bill

A transportation funding bill for Pennsylvania is still stuck in park.

But while negotiations continue, the fate of one of its more controversial mechanisms for generating revenue is still unsettled.

The state Senate’s plan to fund infrastructure includes tacking a 100 dollar surcharge onto certain traffic violations, like speeding tickets.  Most of the money would go toward mass transit. The Senate projected the surcharge would raise as much as 75 million dollars in the first year of implementation.

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Government & Politics
5:40 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

New State Law Allows Medical Providers To Say 'Sorry'

A new state law will allow medical providers to do something many take for granted: say they’re sorry for a bad outcome.

The law will be effective in about two months.

In the past, an apology from a doctor or midwife has been admissible as evidence of liability.

Republican Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County says the law will finally let medical professionals express their sympathies in the event that something goes wrong in the course of care.

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Government & Politics
4:03 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

House Vote on Transportation Funding Will Likely Wait Until November

A transportation funding proposal isn’t quite ready for a vote before the full state House.
               
Negotiations are expected to continue into next month as state lawmakers try to secure public works payment-related concessions from labor unions that can woo Republican votes without losing support from Democratic members.
               
But House Speaker Sam Smith won’t even say he’s cautiously optimistic that a plan could pass in November.

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Business
3:42 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Sen. Casey Calls For Lower Taxes For Small Breweries

Lower taxes may be brewing for small beer makers if the state’s Democratic U.S. senator has any pull.

Bob Casey is calling for a reduction in taxes for the breweries.

He says the same legislation would also increase how much beer companies can sell and still be considered “small.”  

"Taxes as it relates to breweries have really not changed since the mid-1970s," Casey said. "Since that timeframe, breweries have grown substantially in size."

Casey visited Troeg’s Brewing Company in Hershey, Dauphin County to tout the proposal.

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Health
4:50 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

In Harrisburg, a Push to Require More Disease Testing for Newborns

State lawmakers may have the go ahead from the governor for legislation to make sure newborns are tested for a number of degenerative diseases affecting the nervous system.

Krabbe leukodystrophy is on the list of diseases that can go undetected until it’s too late because Pennsylvania doesn’t require newborns to be screened for it.

Vicki Pizzullo knows the pain of hearing such a diagnosis and is urging lawmakers to mandate the testing.

Her 9-month-old daughter Hannah was diagnosed with Krabbe too late to receive treatment.

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