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
3:30 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Bipartisan Pair of PA Lawmakers Push for Homelessness Study

Some state lawmakers are pushing for a study of homelessness in the commonwealth in order to get a better understanding of what advocates say is a growing problem.

The effort would look at the occurrence of homelessness, and its effects and trends in Pennsylvania.    

Dale Lanigan, who helps coordinate volunteers at an emergency overnight men’s shelter in Harrisburg, says it would answer important questions.

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Government & Politics
4:11 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Corbett Spokesman: Governor Has Not Changed Position on Medical Marijuana

Gov. Tom Corbett isn’t budging from his stance against legalizing medical marijuana.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News recently reported the governor had “softened” his position after a spokesman said Corbett would consider changing his mind if the Food and Drug Administration deemed the drug a valid medicine.

But the spokesman later said Corbett’s stance is unchanged.

Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County, who is running for Congress, said Corbett should know the ball isn’t in the FDA’s court on this issue.

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Pennsylvania
10:42 am
Fri January 10, 2014

How Does the PA Farm Show Get Rid of All That Manure? With Lot of Trucks

Thousands of dollars are heading out of the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg on pitchforks, wheelbarrows, and tractor trailer loads.

It’s the cost of getting rid of animal manure left in and around the Farm Show complex.

The job of orchestrating the process falls to Jim Sharp, show manager for the past 11 years.

He said as many as 28 tractor trailer loads will carry waste out of the complex, and all that manure is kept in separate piles based on the type of bedding used by the animals.

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Government & Politics
10:18 am
Fri January 10, 2014

State DPW Concludes Hearings on Medicaid Overhaul Proposal

About 40 members of the public spoke out at the seventh and final hearing on the Corbett's administration's Medicaid overhaul plan Thursday in Harrisburg.
     
State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo was among them.
     
The Bucks County Republican said the state should accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars now while it continues to negotiate an alternative plan with the federal government.
    
But Department of Public Welfare Secretary Bev Mackereth suggested it's not a financially viable option without the reforms they're proposing.
     

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Government & Politics
4:04 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

It's Back: State Lawmakers Talking About Liquor Privatization Again

Republican state lawmakers are in talks to keep the issue of liquor privatization alive in the coming months.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, the most dogged legislative supporter of the push, said Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley is once again leading the effort to phase out state wine and spirits stores.

He said the fact that it’s an election year will work to the advantage of supporters.

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Government & Politics
10:25 am
Wed January 8, 2014

Senate Dems Urge Caution in PA Lottery Debate

As state lawmakers consider taking a legislative approach to making the Pennsylvania Lottery more profitable, Senate Democrats are sounding warnings that any changes shouldn’t be too drastic.

The Corbett administration had pursued a deal with a British firm to take over management of the lottery.

The same now-discarded contract would have also expanded the lottery’s offerings to include keno terminals in restaurants and online gaming.

Senate Democrats say they’re opposed to privatization, but they’re not committing to a position on the fast-paced keno drawings.

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Government & Politics
4:20 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Scarnati Calls for Action on Public Pension Overhaul

The state Senate president pro tem is beginning his eighth year with a call to action for some kind of public pension system overhaul.   

Sen. Joe Scarnati, a Republican of Jefferson County, has been re-elected unanimously to his position.  

In his first address to the Senate this year, he said the budget outlook demands lawmakers grapple with rising public pension costs.

"The choices we need to make will be many but the largest cost and growth in next year’s budget will be pension cost and we need to make choices," Scarnati said.

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Government & Politics
4:08 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Sen. Casey Hopeful a Long-Term Farm Bill Within Reach

Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. senator is hoping the next few months bring a long-term farm bill to fruition in Congress.

Bob Casey is optimistic about the legislation, which sets the nation’s food and agriculture policy.

Last year, Congress passed a short-term extension of the farm bill, which expires every five years.

During a visit to the 98th annual Farm Show in Harrisburg, Casey said the House appears to be more amenable to approving a longer-term fix in the next few months.

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Government & Politics
10:58 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Corbett Optimistic Legislative Support for Lottery Privatization is Growing

Gov. Tom Corbett is optimistic that legislative support for privatizing the state lottery is growing.

For the first time in more than a year, the Corbett administration has no obligation to a British firm that bid on a deal to manage the Pennsylvania Lottery.

The bid from Camelot Global Services expired at the end of 2013.

But Corbett says state lawmakers are still in talks over legislation to allow lottery privatization.

"Nothing’s public," he said. "There’s more discussion and I think there’s more look at getting more funds into Pennsylvania.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Proposal Would Let Teachers in PA Carry Guns on the Job

School shootings across the country have prompted studies on school safety in Pennsylvania, calls to boost security budgets and, now, legislation to allow school staff to carry firearms is on the table.

A year ago, top lawmakers and the Corbett administration said they didn't want to talk about arming teachers in a bid to deter gun violence in schools, but that's exactly the debate state Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) wants to have.

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Government & Politics
10:04 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Corbett Administration Expects Foxconn Site Search to Begin in January

The Corbett administration expects the New Year to kick off plans by electronics manufacturer Foxconn to increase its presence in Pennsylvania.

The Taiwanese supplier of products by Apple, Sony, and Dell will likely start the year looking for a plant location.

Steve Kratz, spokesman for the Department of Community and Economic Development, said though Foxconn already has a small facility in Harrisburg, the new plant’s location hasn’t been decided.

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Government & Politics
10:13 am
Fri December 27, 2013

PA's Minimum Wage Becomes Campaign Fodder For Gubernatorial Candidates

Recent rumblings over the Pennsylvania minimum wage may foreshadow a flashpoint in the gubernatorial election.

Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, has expressed uneasiness with the idea of raising the state’s 7.25 dollar wage.

"I’m not going to go into details right now," he said. "I’ve made a statement on that before and I’m going to stay by that."

He told the Times-Leader of Wilkes-Barre he’s concerned raising the wage may put a damper on Pennsylvania’s economy.

Government & Politics
10:04 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Work Remains for PA Lawmakers on Child Protection Legislation

Work still remains for state lawmakers on child protection legislation, in spite of the slew of bills signed by the governor last week.

The 10 proposals are the result of more than a year of work to tighten up the state’s child protection laws.

Central to the effort was a proposal to re-write the state’s legal definition of child abuse to make it less vague.

But Bucks County District Attorney Dave Heckler says there’s more to come.

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Government & Politics
8:13 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Corbett Administration Considers Re-Bidding Lottery Privatization Deal

The British firm that's been waiting on its bid to privatize certain functions of the Pennsylvania Lottery may soon have some competition.

The Corbett administration is considering starting the bid process over for the plan, now that state lawmakers are considering legislation to pave the way to outsource the management of the lottery.

Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to do it without their approval has been in limbo ever since it was struck down by the attorney general last February.

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Government & Politics
10:30 am
Thu December 19, 2013

PA Budget Chief Warns of $1.4 Billion Budget Shortfall Next Fiscal Year

The governor’s budget secretary is warning if the current financial picture holds, the commonwealth could face up to a $1.4 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year.

Charles Zogby said the budget deficit is due largely to rising personnel costs like health care and pensions.

But a reduction in federal funds for medical assistance and cost increases in the state’s prisons system are also contributing to the gap.

Zogby said the Corbett administration is still trying to avoid cuts.

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Government & Politics
4:26 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Corbett Backs Gay Rights Bill On Discrimination

Gov. Tom Corbett is supporting a measure to ban the discrimination of Pennsylvanians based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The proposal would update the commonwealth’s anti-discrimination law to include what supporters call basic protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Pennsylvanians.

The governor insists he’s not changing his stance on the issue, claiming it’s the first time he’s had any kind of position.

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Government & Politics
9:28 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Legislation to Shrink State Legislature Clears First of Several Hurdles

The state House is taking a step toward shrinking its membership.

Lawmakers have passed a proposal sponsored by the Republican House speaker to cut the 203-seat body to 153 representatives.

During debate, several House members voiced concern that reducing House districts would diminish the voice of rural Pennsylvania in the Legislature.

But Speaker Sam Smith says the measure doesn’t single out certain regions.

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Marcellus Shale
5:24 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

State Lawmakers Propose Marcellus Shale Severance Tax

A group of state lawmakers and advocates are calling on their colleagues to consider placing a tax on the production of natural gas.

Under Gov. Tom Corbett, the Legislature passed an impact fee, which put a levy on each well drilled.

Supporters of the severance tax idea point out Pennsylvania is the only state within shale formations that doesn’t tax gas yields.

Democratic Representative Harry Readshaw of Allegheny County notes such a tax would bring in more money than the impact fee, at a time when dollars are sorely needed.

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Public Safety
5:04 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Corbett Administration Launches Prescription Drug Take-Back Program

The Corbett administration has announced a medication drug take-back program, calling on Pennsylvanians to dump their old prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs in one of the scores of receptacles at police stations across the commonwealth.

Law enforcement and medical professionals say the abuse of prescriptions has led to a surge in the use of drugs like heroin.

Gov. Tom Corbett says getting rid of drugs that sit in medicine cabinets for years brings down the chances that they’ll end up in the hands of people who may misuse them.

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Government & Politics
10:32 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Facing a Crowded Field in Governor's Race, Dems Shore Up Support at PA Society

Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls took to New York over the weekend for the 115th Pennsylvania Society, a series of parties and networking with other big names in politics and industry.

Among the expected frontrunners is Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who was one of the candidates to speak at an event before a largely Republican audience.

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Government & Politics
10:09 am
Mon December 16, 2013

In Weekend Event, Corbett Says He's Ready to Campaign for Second Term

At the 115th annual Pennsylvania Society weekend, when the state’s political and industry elite head to New York City for a string of high-end parties, Gov. Tom Corbett was hard at work to send the message that he’s ready to campaign for a second term.

The buzz may have followed the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, but the governor, not known for being an extrovert, made his way around the various parties and forums in midtown Manhattan.

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Government & Politics
10:32 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Under State House Bill, Hunters Could Collect Bounty for Coyotes

Hunters could be rewarded for killing and collecting coyotes under legislation that has passed the state House.  

The measure would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to fork over $25 for every coyote carcass brought in by licensed hunters and fur-takers.

The payouts could total as much as $700,000, all of which would come from the commission’s own coffers.

More than half of the agency’s annual revenues come from hunting license fees.

The Game Commission has not taken a position on the bill.

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Government & Politics
10:21 am
Fri December 13, 2013

As State Senate Adjourns, Budget Difficulties Loom

The state Senate has adjourned for the year on a somewhat frenzied note as lawmakers search for solutions to looming budget difficulties.

Most recently, Republican lawmakers have eyed the Pennsylvania Lottery as a potential source of additional tax revenues, by proposing legislation that would privatize its management and expand the games offered.

It’s an issue the Senate will take up again after its holiday break.

But Republican Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati says he’s aware the commonwealth may have reached its saturation point for gambling.

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Pennsylvania
5:26 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Lawmakers Consider Banning 'Personal Consumption' of Cats and Dogs

Legislation banning the slaughter of dogs and cats for private human consumption in Pennsylvania is before state Senate lawmakers, after its recent passage in the House.

The slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption is more common than you might think.

"We've run across it occasionally," said George Bengal, director of law enforcement for the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA). "I think it goes pretty much unreported, but it does exist."

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Government & Politics
10:21 am
Tue December 10, 2013

PA Lottery Proposal Likely On Hold Until After the Holidays

The leader of the Senate Republicans says chances are slim lawmakers could pass legislation to expand the lottery and pave the way for its privatization before the holiday break.

Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said the plan, hatched in part to generate revenue ahead of a tough budget year and in part to enact a property tax freeze for seniors, still lacks consensus among GOP lawmakers.

He said it deals with two issues.

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