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
10:23 am
Thu September 26, 2013

State Treasurer McCord 8th Democrat to Enter Race for Governor

State Treasurer Rob McCord is now the eighth Democratic candidate to throw his hat in the ring for governor.

But just days into his campaign, he’s still aiming most of his venom at Gov. Tom Corbett.
    
The former venture capitalist has, as treasurer, challenged Corbett’s plans to privatize the state lottery and overhaul the public pension systems.

He also dings Corbett for signing a “no new taxes” pledge, saying such promises aren’t the source of good public policy.

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Government & Politics
4:55 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

State Senate Votes to Remove CHIP Waiting Period

The state Senate has voted to remove a waiting period that’s snarled enrollment in the commonwealth’s nationally recognized Children’s Health Insurance Program.
    
It would be eliminated as part of a bill to reauthorize CHIP through 2015.

Republican Sen. Don White of Indiana County says the waiting period has long been the source of complaints.  

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Government & Politics
6:50 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Anti-Property Tax Sentiment in PA Remains Passionate, Diffuse

Calls to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania stretch back decades, but the latest effort is moving at cross-purposes with other bills.

More than 100 people rallied on the steps of the state Capitol Tuesday in support of a plan to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania once and for all.

The plan, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox (R-Berks) would replace the levy controlled by school districts with higher rates of the personal income tax and the sales and use tax (the sales tax would also be broadened to apply to more items).

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Government & Politics
10:40 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Lawmakers Call on Corbett to Sever Any Ties Between Two Legislative Proposals

Two legislative leaders are calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to dispel the rumors once and for all that two of his top priorities from the spring are linked as some grand strategy.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa is again asking the administration to announce there is no effort to keep transportation funding hostage in order to pass a liquor privatization bill, or vice versa.

The GOP House Majority Leader agreed that it falls to Corbett to de-couple the two items.

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Government & Politics
7:44 am
Tue September 24, 2013

House GOP Leader Plans Vote on Transportation Funding Bill

The leader of the state House Republicans plans to seek a floor vote on a transportation funding proposal passed by the Senate last May.

Majority Leader Mike Turzai doesn't support the $2.5 billion proposal, but he notes that since Democrats are clamoring for it and the governor has noted his support for it, the measure should be brought to a vote.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 23, 2013

State Lawmaker Pushes Bill to Prevent Cyber Harassment of Children

Among the many lower-profile issues before state House lawmakers when they return to the Capitol this week is cyber bullying. At a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing, one representative pressed the case for tighter rules to reduce online harassment of children.

"The consequences can be, we found out, very devastating to a child," said sponsoring Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin). "In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has characterized cyber bullying as an emergency public health problem."

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 23, 2013

Act 47 Task Force Expected to Recommend Legislation

A task force charged with revising the state's more than 25-year-old program for fiscally distressed municipalities is getting ready to recommend legislation.

The Act 47 program, established in 1987, was meant to take in cities that were on the brink of financial ruin. It has just shown to be not so adept at ushering stabilized cities out.

Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester) is co-chair of the panel suggesting changes. He said the group will likely recommend creating a deadline for Act 47 municipalities to leave the program.

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Government & Politics
10:15 am
Fri September 20, 2013

State Lawmaker Calls for Investigation into Prescription Drug Abuse in PA

One state lawmaker’s call to investigate the proliferation of prescription drug abuse in the commonwealth could be the opening salvo in a war on drug companies, or a blip on the radar in the Legislature.

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) says he’s had it.

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Health Insurance
7:46 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Advocates: Financial Assistance Available for Health Exchange Plans

With less than two weeks until Pennsylvania's online health insurance marketplace opens to the public, advocates are trying to spread the word about its offerings.

For people who feel the slightest pecuniary pinch and don't have significant health coverage, the soon-to-launch state exchange offers a chance to shop at a discount.

Financial assistance will be available to some purchasing health care plans through the marketplace opening Oct. 1, allowing those individuals to greatly reduce the percentage of their income spent on coverage.

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Government & Politics
8:12 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Corbett Administration Says Medicaid Plan Doesn't Need Legislative Approval

The Corbett administration insists it doesn’t need legislative approval to go forward with its overhaul plan for Medicaid, despite some cries to the contrary.

The governor has linked his acceptance of federal funding for private health coverage for low-income residents to a separate plan to change Medicaid benefits and add a work-search requirement.

Todd Shamash, a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office, says Corbett doesn’t need legislative say-so to go forward, as long as federal officials approve.

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Government & Politics
2:12 pm
Wed September 18, 2013

Drug Database Proposal Part of Corbett's Health Care Plan

Part of the Gov. Tom Corbett's Medicaid plan includes health care policy changes that remain in the hands of the state Legislature, including one bill supporters say would reduce prescription drug abuse.

The governor called on state lawmakers to expand the state's medication tracking database. The current system monitors only certain drugs, and law enforcement alone has access to the information.

A bill before the state House would expand the database to track all controlled substances. It would also let doctors and pharmacists check the database.

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Government & Politics
2:48 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

With Corbett's Medicaid Plan, a Familiar Rift in His Own Party

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to reform Medicaid and extend federally subsidized private health coverage to half a million more Pennsylvanians is riling up the staunch conservatives within his party.
    
GOP state Representative Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County says he’s calling the proposal an expansion, even if the governor isn’t using the same language.

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Government & Politics
3:39 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

Corbett Sends Medicaid Plan to Feds

Gov. Tom Corbett addresses the media at PinnacleHealth Harrisburg Hospital on Monday.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing a way for about half a million low-income Pennsylvanians to get access to health insurance, but only if the federal government signs off on reforms to the state's traditional Medicaid program.

The proposal includes replacing Medicaid co-pays with monthly premiums that will range from zero to $25 a month per person based on a recipient's income. The governor also wants to require working-age Medicaid recipients, with some undefined exceptions, to show they're looking for work or getting job training.

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Government & Politics
10:14 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Proposal Aims to Help College Graduates Hobbled by Student Debt

Imagine a student loan program in which there's no interest, the payments are deferred for three years, and they arrive as a percentage of the graduate's income.

The proposal comes from Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach of Montgomery County, who is hoping to help college graduates hobbled by student debt.

The elimination of interest is a key piece of the puzzle.

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Government & Politics
7:49 am
Mon September 16, 2013

No Shortage of Questions as Corbett Readies Medicaid Proposal

Sources within the Corbett administration say the governor will make an announcement about proposed changes to Medicaid Monday afternoon. It may take some time to answer questions about the fiscal prudence of the plan - and whether it can satisfy the federal government.

What's being proposed isn't an expansion, administration officials emphasize. They've hinted at a plan that would make reforms to Medicaid and use federal dollars to subsidize private health insurance for low-income Pennsylvanians.

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Transportation
4:50 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

State House GOP May Be Hitting Reset Button on the Transportation Funding Debate

State House Republicans, who couldn’t muster majority support of a transportation funding plan this year, might be offering a much smaller proposal to pay for infrastructure needs.

Lawmakers headed home for the summer this year after a roughly $2 billion funding plan stalled in the House.
 
Now, House GOP staffers say a $500 million plan may be coming from their quarters.
    
It would pay for infrastructure must-haves, like bridge maintenance and some public transit.

Bob Latham, with Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, disagrees.

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Health
9:45 am
Thu September 12, 2013

State Lawmakers Considering Regulations for New Biosimilar Drugs

State lawmakers are considering regulations for what some call a whole new “breed” of medicine not yet on the U.S. market.

A biosimilar medication is a drug created to mimic another medication without being biologically exact.
    
The drugs are allowed in Europe, but in the U.S., federal regulators are still drafting rules for the drugs — like which ones will be deemed “interchangeable” with other biologic medicine.

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Environment & Energy
1:58 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Environmentalists Call for Tougher Regulation of PA Power Plants

Environmentalists are criticizing Pennsylvania power plants for their carbon emissions and are calling for more stringent regulations.

PennEnvironment’s report shows that, nationwide, the commonwealth has the third highest amount of power plant-borne pollution.

It comes in anticipation of federally proposed emissions regulations on new plants this year and existing plants next year.

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Government & Politics
8:24 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Allentown Mayor Announces Candidacy for Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

As the Democratic field for Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial primary gets more crowded, the chances for lesser-known candidates may increase.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski is the latest to jump into the fray, becoming the seventh Democratic candidate to throw a hat in the ring, and the first to come from the northeastern part of the state.

Thomas Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University in Luzerne County, said with more candidates expected to enter, Pawlowski actually does stand a chance.

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Government & Politics
8:14 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Senate Panel to Explore Proposals Banning Interest Rate Swaps in PA

A bipartisan group of state senators is trying to rid Pennsylvania of the use of complex financial agreements known as interest rate swaps.

Interest rate swaps have been maligned in recent years as the unnecessary bringer of woe, as governments saw cash cows turn to dollar drags when they were blindsided by the 2007 credit crisis, and then the recession of 2008. The instruments were illegal for local government entities across the commonwealth until a 2003 law signed by former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 9, 2013

State Lawmaker Wants to Take Drama Out of End-of-Session Budgeting Frenzy

A state representative wants to take all the drama out of the end-of session budgeting frenzy.
    
Chester County Republican Dan Truitt is borrowing an idea that’s been offered before in the state Capitol.

In the event that no spending plan is finalized by July first, he proposes having the old budget “roll over” to set funding levels temporarily until a deal is hashed out.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Proposal Would Tighten Rules for Public Officials Holding Closed-Door Meetings

A state House proposal would make closed-door meetings of certain governmental agencies a little less of a black box by tightening up the rules of executive sessions.

Public authorities like city councils, school boards, and even the General Assembly can hold "executive sessions," or private meetings (party caucuses not included), when discussing things like litigation, labor contracts, and confidential information under Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act.

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Government & Politics
12:59 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Proposal Seeks to Slow the 'Revolving Door' in Harrisburg

Ethics policies, lobbying rules and conflict of interest laws are the subject of proposals getting a hearing before a state House Committee.

A small, bipartisan group of lawmakers are supporting a proposal to double the number of years distancing a former public official or state employee from a job lobbying his or her old stomping grounds.

Right now, would-be lobbyists must wait a year after they leave government.

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Same-Sex Marriage
10:00 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Among the Many Q's in PA Same-Sex Marriage Case, Who Has Legal Standing?

Bolton Winpenny received a marriage license in Montgomery County and is trying to intervene in the case.
Credit Mary Wilson / 90.5 WESA

One of the many issues a state judge must wrestle with in a case of Montgomery County-issued same-sex marriage licenses is: who has legal standing?

Thirty-two same-sex couples say they do, and should therefore be able to join a lawsuit launched by the Corbett administration aiming to enforce Pennsylvania’s gay marriage ban.

Bolton Winpenny, a computer programmer, says he and his partner married in Harrisburg shortly after receiving their marriage license in Montgomery County in July.

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Same-Sex Marriage
3:14 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Judge Hears Arguments in PA Same-Sex Marriage Case

A state judge has heard arguments over jurisdiction and other matters in the case of a county court official’s decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Commonwealth lawyers are trying to stop the practice, arguing they were distributed in violation of Pennsylvania’s law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Lawyers for Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes said his actions are defensible on the basis they uphold the U.S. and state constitutions.

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