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.

Pages

Harrisburg
11:23 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Christmas Trees Lit at the State Capitol

The state Capitol Christmas trees have been lit, one inside, and another outside the Capitol building.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

The Christmas trees at the state Capitol have been lit and will be on display until early January.               

First Lady Susan Corbett and members of the Pennsylvania National Guard pressed the button to turn on 800 energy-saving lights, but the cue came from two kids standing on either side of Governor Corbett.

"For the next few weeks in the month of December, hopefully we will act a little kinder towards each other, a little gentler towards each other, and, obviously, hopefully a little more generous towards one another," the governor said.

Read more
Government & Politics
5:10 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

State Lawmakers Call for Gambling Study

The state Senate is calling for a legislative study of gambling in Pennsylvania.

The request is coming from Republican Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati of Jefferson County.

"The resolution came about as we continue to watch our gaming revenues go flat and in some instances decline month of over month from last year."

Scarnati says he’s watched warily as neighboring states introduce and expand gambling, increasing the regional competition for dollars.

Read more
Government & Politics
5:55 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

State Lawmakers Mull Removing Some Constraints on Furloughing School Employees

State lawmakers are considering changing the constraints on when and how school districts can furlough teachers.

School districts now can only temporarily lay off employees under one of four scenarios, none of which is economic.

Legislation debated by the state House Education Committee would allow furloughs stemming from financial straits, but the bill considered would also decouple such decisions from teachers’ seniority.  

Read more
Government & Politics
3:41 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Lawmakers Advance Bill Banning Sale of Electronic Cigarettes to Minors

A state Senate committee has advanced a plan to treat electronic cigarettes no differently than tobacco cigarettes.

E-cigarettes produce no smoke, just a vapor that delivers nicotine to the user.

A proposal is before the state Senate to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in Pennsylvania, just as the sale of tobacco cigarettes to anyone younger than 18 is prohibited.  

Republican state Sen. Stewart Greenleaf of Montgomery County says Pennsylvania lawmakers wouldn’t be the first to take up this issue.  

Read more
Hunting
1:56 pm
Sun December 1, 2013

Monday Marks Start of Deer Season in PA

Some 750,000 hunters will be out and about across the state Monday for the start of deer season.

According to the state Game Commission, the number of hunters has held steady over the past few years.

Spokesman Travis Lau said about 60 percent of the harvest for the entire season is expected to be killed on opening day.

Read more
Transportation
3:30 am
Fri November 29, 2013

With Funding Plan in Place, PennDOT Reconsidering Weight Restrictions for Bridges

PennDOT is reconsidering the weight restrictions placed on structurally deficient bridges in August.

The restrictions came as a result of the Legislature’s failure to approve additional transportation funding over the summer.

But with a funding plan now in place for road and bridge work, PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt says the department can start re-evaluating bridge postings.

Read more
Education
3:30 am
Thu November 28, 2013

Report Shows Dearth of Publicly Funded Pre-K in PA

A report on the accessibility of early education programs for young children shows the commonwealth has some work to do.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, an education advocacy group, has released its 2013 study on school “readiness” in the commonwealth.

It finds less than 16 percent of three- and four-year-olds have access to publicly-funded pre-kindergarten.

The remaining roughly 84 percent of children in the commonwealth may have access to private early education.

Read more
Environment
1:43 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

As Deer Season Approaches, Hunters Urged to Donate Some of Their Haul

With deer season just days away, hunters are being urged to donate some portion of what they haul in to food banks.

The group Hunters Sharing the Harvest reimburses 92 participating deer butchers around the state for taking donated venison and processing the meat for distribution.

Lorri Diller, co-owner of Diller’s Deer Processing in Cumberland County, said hunters don’t have to donate a whole deer.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.  

Read more
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.

Read more
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.  

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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."

Read more
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.
               

Read more
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.

Read more
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.  

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
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.

Read more

Pages