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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Tax Revenues
5:34 am
Tue May 6, 2014

With Low Revenues, Governor And GOP Lawmakers Play The Blame Game

Republican state lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett are blaming Congress for Pennsylvania’s money problems. But economists say the criticism is not warranted.

Pennsylvania’s tax revenue haul in April was almost nine percent below estimates, a fourth straight month that expectations were not met 

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre) said  part of the reason is the end of federal tax breaks on capital gains, dividends, and higher wage earners.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Tan Ban Comes With 'Prom Carve-Out'

Proposals to block minors from using tanning beds in Pennsylvania has been kicked around the Capitol for at least three years.

The key to final passage? Don’t mess with prom.

The state Legislature has passed a measure to ban anyone 16 years old and younger from tanning salons. 17-year-olds would be good to go with a parent’s permission.

Sponsoring Rep. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) calls it the “prom carve-out,” and he said it was necessary to get political support for the bill.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Plan Would Bring Speed Radar To Local Police Agencies

A decades-long debate over enforcing local speed limits is about to resurface. Pennsylvania mayors and local police chiefs have banded together to form the “Radar Coalition.”

Members united over their shared covetous feelings toward the radar guns used by state police to identify vehicles going over the speed limit. State law bans local police from using the same tool.

Jim Nowalk, mayor of Whitehall in Allegheny County, said his police officers tell him enforcing speeding laws on hills and curved roads is too difficult without radar.

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Government & Politics
10:36 am
Thu May 1, 2014

McCord Calls On Wolf To Explain Support For Admitted Racist

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Treasurer Rob McCord is raising the stakes in the four-way campaign for the party's nomination.

McCord called on one of his opponents, York County businessman Tom Wolf, to explain why he stood by a former York mayor who participated in the city’s 1969 race riots as a police officer and was implicated, and ultimately acquitted, in a black woman’s murder decades later.

McCord raised the issue in his opening remarks during a debate on education issues in Philadelphia.

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Government & Politics
10:17 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Senate Panel Hears From Backers Of Plan To Kill Property Taxes

State Senate supporters of a plan to replace school property taxes with higher personal income and sales levies are shopping their proposal around to colleagues.

It’s hard to tell for sure if popular support for property tax elimination has grown, but rallies and hearings on the issue tend to be packed with people who say their property taxes are so high they’re in danger of losing their homes.

A Senate Finance Committee hearing on the issue Wednesday was no exception. But even co-sponsors of the “tax shift” plan under consideration now would create new winners and losers.

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Government & Politics
11:02 am
Tue April 29, 2014

Supporters Of Medical Marijuana Threaten Sit-In Outside Corbett's Office

Proponents of legalizing medical marijuana say they’ll stage a sit-in outside Gov. Tom Corbett’s office unless they get a meeting they’ve requested with him.

Parents and grandparents of sick children voiced their hopes that the governor might be persuaded to support legalization with an in-person meeting. With Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), who is running for Congress, they’re demanding a response this week, or the sit-in is a go.

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Government & Politics
5:02 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Schwartz Keeps Up Scrutiny Of Her Perceived Only Competition

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Allyson Schwartz isn’t satisfied with opponent Tom Wolf’s responses to questions about his campaign financing.

The congresswoman is on week three of prodding Wolf about the nearly $4.5 million personal loan he took out to help fund his campaign. But she won’t say how she thinks he might be compromised, or what would be the worst-case scenario of a gubernatorial candidate with a loan to repay.

“Well it could be a distraction, for one,” Schwartz told reporters after delivering remarks to the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg Monday.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon April 28, 2014

As Primary Approaches, Democratic Candidates Turn Their Attention From Corbett To Each Other

Less than a month from the May 20 primary, sniping among the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates is starting to creep into the race.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz has taken the lead – at least when it comes to taking jabs at the field’s perceived frontrunner, Tom Wolf.

Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, says it makes sense given recent polls showing Schwartz as Wolf’s closest competitor.

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Military
3:30 am
Mon April 28, 2014

Army Plan Would Cut 1,400 Guardsmen In Eastern PA

The U.S. Army will propose shutting down a Pennsylvania National Guard brigade headquarters in Scranton with units based in eastern Pennsylvania by late 2016.

The cuts would amount to roughly 1,400 soldiers, due to the closing of the brigade and its affiliated units in Wilkes-Barre, Lewisburg, Sellersville and Philadelphia.

The proposed changes are part of a larger plan for deep cuts announced by U.S Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in late February.

Adjutant General Wesley has vigorously opposed the effort, calling it a foolhardy way to trim military costs.

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Government & Politics
11:58 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Lawmakers Mull Severance Tax, With Varying Seriousness

Talk of low state revenues is prompting Republicans in the General Assembly to suggest new taxes could be under consideration, including the the ever-polarizing severance tax on natural gas drillers. But there are no clear indicators an extraction tax could pass anytime soon.

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Government & Politics
5:49 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Senator: Portraits Of Lawmakers Convicted Of Corruption Shouldn’t Be On Display

The state Senate’s most junior member is getting down to his first official matter of business: redecorating.

Portraits of past House and Senate leaders hang in the hallways just off the Capitol Rotunda. Three are of former lawmakers sentenced for corruption charges in 2012.

“I think it’s wrong,” said Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), just three weeks into his term. “What message does that send – that we’re OK with corruption?”

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Senator: Loan Bank For Flood Zone Homes Faces Long Odds

The one idea state lawmakers heard to help homeowners facing rising flood insurance rates may have been a dud.

A Lycoming County floodplain manager told lawmakers in January: If you want a long-term way to help flood zone property owners, set up a loan bank.

Fran McJunkin said the state was in the perfect position to provide low-cost loans to people trying to flood-proof their homes.

“I think it’s really important that people are responsible for the mitigation themselves,” McJunkin said. “And this is not a giveaway program. This would be helping people find a path.”

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Government & Politics
8:05 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Wolf Says Loan For Millions Backed By Personal Money, Not Company’s

The front-runner in the Democratic race for governor is acutely feeling the target on his back. Tom Wolf continues to receive demands from opponent Allyson Schwartz for more details of his campaign’s financing.

Wolf, who said he gave $10 million of his own money to his campaign, has released a summary of a $4.45 million loan he took out as part of that self-financing effort.

The disclosure came at the behest of fellow gubernatorial candidate Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. During a debate last week, Schwartz said voters deserve to see loan documents, not a mere summary.

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Government & Politics
7:45 am
Wed April 16, 2014

From House Democrat, A Call For Divorce Equality

It turns out that legally ending a same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania is just as impossible as legally entering one.

In a co-sponsorship memo floated last week, Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Lehigh) said he plans to fix what he called “the marriage trap” — a limbo land reserved for same-sex couples who, after marrying in one of the 17 states (or the District of Columbia), move to Pennsylvania, decide to split up, and can’t legally end the union.

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Government & Politics
7:40 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Guzzardi Wins Ballot Challenge; Appeal Expected

A Commonwealth Court judge has ruled Bob Guzzardi will remain on the Republican gubernatorial primary ballot as Gov. Tom Corbett’s only challenger.

The state GOP’s general counsel, Lawrence Tabas, who argued against Guzzardi’s nominating petitions, said he’ll “absolutely” file an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

“I’ll be prompt,” Tabas said.

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Government & Politics
12:02 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Tavern Gaming Glitch May Have Cooled Expansion Efforts

State lawmakers may be skittish about bridging budget gaps with any more expansions of gambling, due to a so-far failed attempt to bring in big bucks from tavern gambling.

Late last year, as state coffers were looking empty, lawmakers floated ideas of expanding gambling to fill shortfalls.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Groups Mobilize Against Senate Proposal To Eliminate School Property Taxes

Groups opposed to a plan to eliminate school property taxes are mobilizing in an effort to neutralize a looming threat.

The spokesman for the Republican Senator Majority Leader says some kind of response to property tax concerns is planned for this spring.

One plan would replace the property tax levied by school districts with higher sales and personal income taxes.

Sharon Ward, head of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, said that would do more harm than good in the eyes of businesses, schools, and advocates for the poor.

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Government & Politics
7:39 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Group Scores Dems For Governor On Gun Control Issues

It’s the one survey in the past two months that Tom Wolf isn’t winning: CeaseFirePA’s “voter guide,” a report of the gubernatorial candidates positions on nearly 20 different gun safety measures and an accompanying assessment.

Democratic candidates Katie McGinty and Allyson Schwartz are 100 percent aligned with CeaseFirePA’s positions. Rob McCord scored 84 percent, and Wolf scored 79 percent.

The two Republican candidates didn’t respond to the survey.

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Government & Politics
5:26 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Senate To Consider Cash Gift Ban As A 'First Step'

The state Senate will vote on a proposal to restrict cash gifts to public officials, a measure that aims to change state law, not just the rules that govern the Senate or the House.

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Government & Politics
5:18 pm
Sun April 6, 2014

Legislature Expected To Clarify Who Must Report Child Abuse

Proposals to change how suspected child abuse must be reported in Pennsylvania are nearing the finish line after stalling for several months.

Two measures are awaiting final votes in the House and Senate to clarify who must report child abuse and how they should do it. But a plan that originated in the state Senate would now exclude lawyers from the list of people who will be mandated reporters, after House lawmakers voiced concerns about breaching attorney-client privilege: should lawyers be mandated reporters if filing a complaint could violate the trust of their client?

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PA Governor's race
7:53 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Poll Shows Plenty Of Democratic Voters Still Undecided On Gubernatorial Candidates

A new poll of Democratic voters in Pennsylvania shows a big chunk of the electorate still hasn't made up their minds about their party’s candidates for governor.

“Locked in place” is how Franklin and Marshall Poll Director Terry Madonna describes the Democratic field less than two months from the primary.         

Forty-six percent of surveyed Democrats remain undecided, a small drop from the 48 percent who didn’t pick a favorite when asked in a poll in late February.

But Madonna said it’s not clear those undecided voters will really matter on election day.

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Government & Politics
7:44 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Petitions Challenge Of Corbett’s Only Primary Opponent Ongoing

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s only primary opponent has faced a second day in court over a challenge to get him thrown off the ballot.

GOP-backed voters say Bob Guzzardi, a Montgomery County activist and lawyer, should not be a candidate in the May 20 primary because he failed to file a statement of financial interest on time to the State Ethics Commission.

Lawyer Lawrence Tabas quotes the state Ethics Act in calling the oversight a “fatal defect.”

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Government & Politics
7:41 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Softened Changes For Union Exemption On 'Fast Track'

A state proposal to change rules for unions involved in a labor dispute is on the fast track to becoming law.

Under state law, unions in Pennsylvania are allowed to harass, stalk, and threaten to use weapons of mass destruction if they’re involved in a labor dispute.

Legislation that started as an effort to end that exemption now just kind of massages it.

A Senate committee on Tuesday approved changes to allow stalking and harassment if it is used in the pursuit of constitutionally-protected or legally-protected activity.

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Government & Politics
6:00 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Bill Would Bolster Training For Indigent Defense Lawyers

Advocates Tuesday urged state Senate lawmakers to support better training for lawyers tasked with defending adult criminal defendants and juvenile delinquents who can’t afford to hire a lawyer.

A measure before state lawmakers would create such a program with $1 million in the next fiscal year.

Access to such free counsel is required under the U.S. Constitution and federal case law, but Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t help fund county offices providing indigent defense.

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Government & Politics
12:30 pm
Sun March 30, 2014

Corbett Administration Refutes Higher Education Criticism

The Corbett administration is pushing back against claims it let recommendations on higher education gather dust.

State Senator Andy Dinniman of Chester County, ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, says a 2012 report from the governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education hasn’t prompted action.             

"It is a repeat of what did happen on transportation, where a report was issued, nothing was done, and finally the legislature under the lead of Senator Rafferty had to force action," Dinniman said.

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Government & Politics
3:25 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Hue And Cry, And Hope, For A Ban On Cash Gifts

That sound you hear is the stampede of lawmakers rushing to propose a ban on cash gifts. The calls for reform are following revelations that four Philadelphia House Democrats accepted money from an undercover lobbyist working with state prosecutors in a quashed sting.

Pennsylvania’s ethics act is one of the weakest in the country, letting public officials accept gifts as long as they report those valued at $250 or more. The reporting trigger is $650 dollars if the gift is transportation, lodging, or hospitality.

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Government & Politics
5:19 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Marijuana Decriminalization Bills Come From Senate Dem With Eyes On Higher Office

State Sen. Mike Stack, a Philadelphia Democrat and candidate for lieutenant governor, is proposing to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

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Government & Politics
5:18 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Local Challenge of Federal Contraception Mandate

A Lancaster County-based company is one of two family-owned businesses taking on the so-called “contraception mandate” in the federal Affordable Care Act. Oral arguments are set to begin Tuesday morning in the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the central questions in this case is whether for-profit corporations exercise religious beliefs, and can therefore claim a religious exemption to a law.

Two companies, including Conestoga Wood Specialties, based in Lancaster County, object to a part of the health care law’s regulations, and they’re asking for a religious exemption.

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Government & Politics
8:00 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Calls Mount For Further Investigation Of Sting Dropped By AG's Office

A non-partisan government reform group says investigations into a sting operation dropped by the attorney general’s office shouldn’t stop with the state House Ethics Committee.

Leaders from both parties in the House have assured the chamber’s Ethics panel it would be given the budget to do an investigation of members implicated in a sting that gave $20,000 to eight people. Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she dropped the case because it couldn’t be successfully prosecuted, despite recordings of public officials accepting money or gifts.

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Government & Politics
10:40 am
Fri March 21, 2014

State Senator: Campaign Spending Could Be More Transparent With Better Software

A state senator is calling on the commonwealth to make campaign finance reports more readily available to the public, but some say what’s needed isn’t new software, but new law.

Pennsylvanians shouldn’t have to wait days or weeks to see online who’s donating to a political candidate, or how much a candidate is spending, said Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) Wednesday. At a hearing with the Pennsylvania Department of State, he used the example of making a deposit in a bank.

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