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
10:38 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Department of Corrections Requesting $77 Million Increase For Next Fiscal Year

The head of the state prison system is reminding state lawmakers they’ve had a hand in the growing inmate population.

The Department of Corrections is requesting about $77 million more for the next fiscal year beginning in July, with most of the boost tied to personnel costs.

At a budget hearing, House lawmakers noted concern with the steady rise in spending at the agency.               

But Secretary John Wetzel said lawmakers shouldn’t be surprised, since many of them have helped pass legislation beefing up prison sentences.

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Government & Politics
8:00 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Kane Pressed on Timeline of Sandusky Case Review

State Attorney General Kathleen Kane is being pressed for answers on when she’ll wrap up an investigation of the prosecution of Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State assistant football coach and convicted child molester.

The internal review began a year ago when Kane hired an outside deputy attorney general, Geoff Moulton, to helm the investigation. Kane told the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday that releasing findings will take more time, since document recovery and scheduling interviews have slowed down the review.

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Government & Politics
5:51 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

PA House Speaker Says He Won’t Run For Re-Election

Pennsylvania’s state House Speaker says he won’t run for re-election this year, after 27 years serving in the Legislature.

Sam Smith, a 14-term Republican legacy from Punxsutawney, said he just stopped enjoying the job.

“I wasn’t putting 100 percent into it, in the sense that I used to always say – no matter how bad and crazy things were around here – I could say, ‘Yeah but I still really enjoy my work, I really love the fights, the battles, the political wrangling that goes on,’” Smith said. “You need to really want to be doing it.”

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Government & Politics
3:15 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

PA Budget Chief Defends Governor's Spending Plan

Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget secretary has started three weeks of budget hearings by defending the use of revenue predictions built into a proposed $29.4 billion spending plan.

Charles Zogby acknowledges the budget proposal rests, in part, on reducing the state’s payments into the two public pension systems — something that still requires action by the Legislature.

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Education
3:30 am
Mon February 10, 2014

State Dems Take Issue With Corbett's Education Funding Proposal

State Democratic lawmakers are taking issue with how Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing to increase funding for public education.

The governor proposed a $240 million block grant which would come with spending restrictions and be doled out according to a formula.

But Chester County Sen. Andy Dinniman, ranking Democrat on the chamber’s education committee, said the formula differs from the one used under an existing block grant.

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Government & Politics
3:19 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

PA Farm Bureau Commends the Corbett's Budget Proposal

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is commending the governor’s budget proposal for increasing funding to two programs key to the state’s leading industry.

Spokesman Mark O’Neill welcomes the proposed 9 percent increase, or roughly $2 million, to the Department of Agriculture’s general operations, which he says has seen cuts for the last several years.

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State Government
11:56 am
Tue February 4, 2014

Corbett Looks to Spend More, Relying on Unresolved Items

Gov. Tom Corbett makes his budget proposal to state lawmakers Tuesday.
Credit pa.gov

Gov. Tom Corbett delivered his fourth budget address midday Tuesday, calling for more than $900 million in additional state spending over the current fiscal year.

A good chunk of Corbett’s proposed roughly 3 percent increase in state spending would go to education. About $300 million more would go toward a new block grant for schools, special education and early learning programs, and higher education scholarships.

The proposal also calls for continuing the phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax on business holdings, erasing the levy by 2016.

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Government & Politics
2:57 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Allentown Mayor Pawlowski Exits Gubernatorial Race

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has ended his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

In so doing, he’s trumpeting his support for Democratic state Treasurer Rob McCord.

Pawlowski said he hopes the now seven-person field thins to minimize any intra-party bickering that he says would make it more likely that incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett secures a second term.

He says his decision comes down to money.

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Government & Politics
7:45 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Revenge Porn Bill Faces Uncertain Future in PA House

The chairman of a state House committee says he’d like to move a proposal this spring to criminalize what’s been called "revenge porn."

The measure would make it a crime to post nude images of someone online with intent to harass the person pictured.

It has passed in the Senate, though its sponsor, Democratic Sen. Judy Schwank of Berks County, said she’s not sure how speedily the bill could advance in the House.

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Government & Politics
9:28 am
Sat February 1, 2014

Lawmaker Says Bill to Prevent Child Abuse in Schools Mothballed by PA House

A state senator is urging his House colleagues to get moving on a proposal to prevent child abuse in Pennsylvania schools.

Philadelphia Democrat Tony Williams says his measure aims to stop what’s called “passing the trash” — allowing people accused of child sexual abuse to relocate to another school without their new employer being aware of their history.

He says his bill would require more thorough background checks, and make school districts exchange any records they have on prospective hires.

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Government & Politics
1:56 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Corbett to Ask Lawmakers for a $10M Increase for Early Ed Grants

Gov. Tom Corbett plans to ask lawmakers for a $10 million increase for early education grants in his budget address next week.

The proposal would amount to a 16 percent increase in funding for the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program.

"Our Pre-K Counts programs consistently deliver high-quality pre-k education," Corbett said. "We’re not talking just babysitting, we’re talking care, we’re talking about teaching, we’re talking about nurturing."

Estimates show more than a one billion dollar deficit going into the fiscal year beginning in July.

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Government & Politics
9:56 am
Thu January 30, 2014

State Senate Republicans Hope to Vote on Expanding PA Lottery Before Summer Recess

State Senate Republicans have a tentative plan to move legislation by July to expand the Pennsylvania Lottery.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi says the goal is to hold a vote on a measure to legalize terminal-based games like keno, a fast-paced drawing, before the Legislature’s traditional summer recess.

Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser skirted the question of whether legislative approval is needed to add such games, but he said the Corbett administration is seeking some statutory changes.

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Government & Politics
11:35 am
Wed January 29, 2014

As Flood Insurance Costs Rise, State Lawmakers May Have a Way to Help

As flood insurance premiums go skyward due to recently implemented federal legislation, state lawmakers are just beginning to learn how they might be able to help.

A Lycoming County planner suggested state lawmakers create a loan program to help homeowners deal with the rising costs of living in a floodplain.

Beyond that, Republican Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County notes little can be done to change federal policy contributing to rising rates.  

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Government & Politics
2:40 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

State Senators Hear Testimony on Proposal to Legalize Medical Marijuana Derivative

State senators have heard testimony on a proposal to legalize and regulate a kind of medical marijuana derivative.

Proponents say the drug, extracted as an oil, can treat severe epilepsy, autoimmune diseases and diabetes.

The state’s nurses association supports the measure, while the dominant doctors association is urging further testing and the Pennsylvania State Elks Association’s drug awareness committee is against legalizing the treatment.

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Government & Politics
10:33 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Rhetorical Fight Brewing Over Union Deductions Proposal

A rhetorical battle is brewing over a proposal to end the automatic deduction of union dues and voluntary political contributions from the pay of public employees in Pennsylvania.

Unions representing public workers say it’s an attempt to kill organized labor and shrink their political spending.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County, says he’s not refuting the rights of public employee unions to make contributions to political campaigns and political action committees.

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Politics
5:34 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Gov. Candidate To Be First Among Democratic Contenders To Air TV Ad

At forums and debates, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates have largely agreed on policy issues, but one of the eight-person field is try to break out of the pack with a television ad this week.

Katie McGinty, a former Department of Environmental Protection secretary, says her ad will air before and after the president’s State of the Union Address, on CNN and MSNBC.

Gov. Tom Corbett has already hit the television airwaves with an ad last November, but McGinty is the first Democratic contender to launch a TV spot.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon January 27, 2014

State Senators Taking Next Formal Step to Make Changes to PA Lottery

State senators are taking the next formal step to making changes to the Pennsylvania Lottery.

At an upcoming hearing, they plan to hear from national researchers and state officials on issues related to expanding the lottery to include more games and outsourcing its management.

The original push to add to game offerings came from the Corbett administration during its effort to privatize a portion of the lottery.

But Erik Arneson, spokesman for the Republican Senate Majority Leader, said lawmakers are interested in the face of a potential budget deficit.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Measure to Create New Schools Funding Formula Gets a Boost from Corbett

Prospects for legislation to devise a new schools funding formula have gotten a bit brighter.

Gov. Tom Corbett recently criticized the current method of divvying up state aid, which happens during budget negotiations among state lawmakers.

"It’s not fair right now. OK? So we need to address that," Corbett said. "So I’m looking forward to seeing that bill pass in the Senate. I’m looking forward to that commission, and then let’s go to a true funding system."

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Government & Politics
7:37 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Corbett Mulling Next Move On Voter ID

Days after a state judge struck down Pennsylvania voter identification law, Gov. Tom Corbett says he’s not sure whether his administration will appeal the ruling.

The law was passed at the urging of the Corbett administration by the Republican-controlled Legislature, over protests from Democrats. Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard McGinley rejected the law in a ruling released last Friday, calling voter ID unconstitutional based in part on its flawed implementation and its foundation on a “vague concern” of voter fraud.

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Government & Politics
1:55 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Corbett Proposes Second Annual Boost to Abuse Victims’ Programs

Gov. Tom Corbett says he’ll propose an additional $2.2 million in state aid for programs serving victims of rape and domestic abuse.

The unusual preview of part of Corbett’s budget address comes nearly three weeks before he’s scheduled to outline his spending plan to the Legislature.

The 10 percent funding increase isn’t set in stone. Corbett said legislative leaders haven’t promised to keep it in the spending plan they’ll negotiate and send to his desk. The budget is due at the end of June.

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Government & Politics
9:38 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Hearing to Wade Into How a Federal Law Has Affected Flood Insurance Rates

The implications of a federal law on flood insurance rates will be the topic of an upcoming hearing in Harrisburg.

A 2012 law designed to make property owners pay for the risk of living in high flood hazard areas has resulted in swift increases to flood insurance premiums.

Republican state Sen. Gene Yaw of Lycoming County said it’s likely many Pennsylvanians living near a river have already seen the higher rates.  

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Government & Politics
9:29 am
Tue January 21, 2014

State Lawmakers Plan to Discuss Medical Marijuana Legalization Proposal

Medical marijuana is expected to be the subject of an upcoming hearing at the state Capitol.

A state Senate proposal would allow a derivative of the substance that advocates say could treat severe cases of epilepsy in children.

Sponsoring Republican Sen. Mike Folmer of Lebanon County said he’s always thought the prohibition against medical marijuana didn’t make much sense.

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Government & Politics
10:27 am
Wed January 15, 2014

House Dems Call on Corbett to Earmark More Money for Schools

With three weeks to go until the governor presents his state budget proposal, House Democrats are urging him to earmark more money for education.

It’s been an annual request since Gov. Tom Corbett’s first budget was signed into law three years ago, when Republicans made deep cuts to public education.

Corbett’s administration insists the cuts are a direct result of the disappearance of federal stimulus funds used under former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Democrats are also urging a return to a formula for distributing school funding.

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Government & Politics
10:19 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Vote on State DPW Name Change Delayed

A committee vote on a plan to change the name of the state Department of Public Welfare has been delayed.

Lawmakers from both parties wanted more time to draft amendments to the measure to re-name DPW as the Department of Human Services.

Democrats say they hope to add language to force the issue of expanding Medicaid.

Similar legislation was approved by the Senate last summer, but has stalled in the House.

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Government & Politics
10:16 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Senate Dems Criticize Proposed Restrictions Within State Public Welfare System

Democratic state senators are criticizing a measure aimed at tightening restrictions within the commonwealth’s public welfare system.

The proposal would increase penalties for abusing public benefits.

In also includes an attempt to bring expensive cars under consideration when determining recipients’ eligibility.

Sen. Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia, ranking Democrat on the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, said he finds it suspect that the issue is being raised during an election year.

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