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
11:05 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Advocacy Group Says PA Needs a New Way to Select Judges

Advocates for a new way of selecting appellate court judges say the one statewide contest for Superior Court underscores their case that voters have too little information to responsibly elect judges.

The advocacy group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is pushing to replace elections with a new process called merit selection.

Under the proposed system, appellate judges would be vetted by an independent commission, nominated by the governor, and confirmed by the state Senate, before ultimately facing voters in retention elections.

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Government & Politics
1:21 am
Fri November 1, 2013

State Points to Better Dog Law Enforcement

After being blasted by animal rights advocates last year for lax enforcement of tough new dog kennel regulations, state officials are now touting their more recent record of regular inspections and frequent citations for illegal practices.

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Election 2014
7:37 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Corbett Approval Could Hinge on Medicaid

A new statewide poll shows there could be light at the end of a tunnel lined with low job performance ratings for Gov. Corbett.

The Franklin & Marshall College survey indicates Corbett's vision for health care may win over some sorely needed voters in advance of next year's gubernatorial election.

64 percent of respondents support expanding the state's Medicaid program to hundreds of thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians using federal money.

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Mass Transit Funding
10:01 am
Tue October 29, 2013

$100 Surcharge on Speeding Tickets Slowing Action on Transportation Bill

A transportation funding bill for Pennsylvania is still stuck in park.

But while negotiations continue, the fate of one of its more controversial mechanisms for generating revenue is still unsettled.

The state Senate’s plan to fund infrastructure includes tacking a 100 dollar surcharge onto certain traffic violations, like speeding tickets.  Most of the money would go toward mass transit. The Senate projected the surcharge would raise as much as 75 million dollars in the first year of implementation.

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Government & Politics
5:40 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

New State Law Allows Medical Providers To Say 'Sorry'

A new state law will allow medical providers to do something many take for granted: say they’re sorry for a bad outcome.

The law will be effective in about two months.

In the past, an apology from a doctor or midwife has been admissible as evidence of liability.

Republican Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County says the law will finally let medical professionals express their sympathies in the event that something goes wrong in the course of care.

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Government & Politics
4:03 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

House Vote on Transportation Funding Will Likely Wait Until November

A transportation funding proposal isn’t quite ready for a vote before the full state House.
               
Negotiations are expected to continue into next month as state lawmakers try to secure public works payment-related concessions from labor unions that can woo Republican votes without losing support from Democratic members.
               
But House Speaker Sam Smith won’t even say he’s cautiously optimistic that a plan could pass in November.

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Business
3:42 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Sen. Casey Calls For Lower Taxes For Small Breweries

Lower taxes may be brewing for small beer makers if the state’s Democratic U.S. senator has any pull.

Bob Casey is calling for a reduction in taxes for the breweries.

He says the same legislation would also increase how much beer companies can sell and still be considered “small.”  

"Taxes as it relates to breweries have really not changed since the mid-1970s," Casey said. "Since that timeframe, breweries have grown substantially in size."

Casey visited Troeg’s Brewing Company in Hershey, Dauphin County to tout the proposal.

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Health
4:50 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

In Harrisburg, a Push to Require More Disease Testing for Newborns

State lawmakers may have the go ahead from the governor for legislation to make sure newborns are tested for a number of degenerative diseases affecting the nervous system.

Krabbe leukodystrophy is on the list of diseases that can go undetected until it’s too late because Pennsylvania doesn’t require newborns to be screened for it.

Vicki Pizzullo knows the pain of hearing such a diagnosis and is urging lawmakers to mandate the testing.

Her 9-month-old daughter Hannah was diagnosed with Krabbe too late to receive treatment.

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Government & Politics
5:37 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

PA's State-Related Universities Defend Open Records Status

Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities are arguing they should continue to receive special treatment under the commonwealth’s open records law.

State lawmakers are working on an update to the government transparency law last revised in 2008, which largely exempts Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln.

Valerie Harrison, general counsel for Lincoln University, says additional oversight would be cumbersome.

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Government & Politics
3:22 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Prescription Drug Database Could Expand In PA, But Who Can Use It?

Pennsylvania could soon track more of the prescriptions you purchase but it is still unclear who will be able to see the database.
Credit stockmonkeys.com

Pennsylvania is not like its neighboring states – it monitors prescriptions most prone to abuse, but turns a blind eye to other categories of drugs.  But that might not be the case for long.  

The program is intended to prevent drug abuse by allowing prescribers and law enforcement to check for patterns in a patient’s prescription history.

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Government & Politics
3:14 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Will PA Politics Be Impacted by Shutdown?

Elected officials and political strategists are trying to assess the effect of the 16-day federal government shutdown on political capital in Pennsylvania and most are finding it hard to see much damage.

Republican strategist Charlie Gerow thinks the shutdown debate will strengthen GOP candidates because it clarified their message.

“One is the incredible increase in the national debt, and two – the disaster of Obamacare,” Gerow said.

But after the shutdown-inducing fight, Republicans seem no closer to changing the Affordable Care Act or reducing the national debt.

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CHIP
7:54 am
Thu October 17, 2013

CHIP Reauthorized, Waiting Period Gone

Gov. Corbett has signed into law the elimination of an unpopular six-month waiting period for some children in the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

The lag in enrollment applied to some children more than two years old - it was a way to ensure employers or consumers wouldn't drop private coverage to enroll in the public program.

Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) praised his colleagues for making the proposal a priority.

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Health
10:25 am
Wed October 16, 2013

State Public Welfare Official Says PA Not Proactive Enough in Treating Mental Illness

An official with the Department of Public Welfare is pushing for a statewide assessment of how mental health services are delivered in the commonwealth.
               
Dennis Marion, a deputy secretary with the agency’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, says the state isn’t proactive enough in treating mental illness before it becomes an emergency.
               

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Government & Politics
10:17 am
Wed October 16, 2013

School Property Tax Reform a Long Way Off, Some State Senators Say

As state senators consider how to address problems with a plan to eliminate school property taxes, some say the issue is too vast to be addressed by the Legislature this fall.

The proposal would replace most school districts’ property tax revenue by increasing the personal income tax and expanding and boosting the state sales tax.

Republican state Sen. Dave Argall of Schuylkill County, the plan’s sponsor, notes that in the first year of implementation, such a shift would generate enough money for school districts.

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Government & Politics
2:34 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

State Lawmakers Assessing Heroin Use in Pennsylvania

State lawmakers have begun a series of hearings throughout the commonwealth to learn more about what they and law enforcement officials call a heroin epidemic.

The state attorney general’s office says Pennsylvania has the third highest number of heroin users, behind California and Illinois, with an average 40,000 users.
               
Republican state Rep. Tim Krieger of Westmoreland County says, after listening to testimony in southwestern Pennsylvania about the causes of increased heroin use, he’s not looking for a single legislative remedy to the problem.

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Government & Politics
9:30 am
Mon October 14, 2013

State Lawmaker Wants to Rid PA of Potato Packaging Weight Restrictions

A state lawmaker is calling potato packaging rules in Pennsylvania absurd.

Republican Senator Dave Argall of Schuylkill County is making an effort to re-work them.

Potato packages sold in Pennsylvania can be 3 pounds, 5 pounds, or 10 pounds — and several other weight categories.

But it’s the prohibition of 8-pound bags that bothers potato growers in the commonwealth.

Argall says he wants to remove the weight restrictions.

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Education
3:30 am
Mon October 14, 2013

House Bill Would Expand Online Education in PA

A plan to make online courses available to middle school and high school students in Pennsylvania is before the state House.

Online education in the commonwealth has been limited, for the most part, to cyber charter schools and a few brick-and-mortar schools. But Rep. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) wants to make all school districts offer such classes to students in grades six through 12.

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Government & Politics
6:39 pm
Sun October 13, 2013

Pennsylvanians Turn to Pen and Paper to Enroll in New Health Care Exchanges

More than a week after the federal health care exchange opened in Pennsylvania, people are turning to pen and paper to begin shopping for insurance plans under the federal health care law.

Organizations around the commonwealth say website glitches caused by high traffic have kept anyone from successfully enrolling in a plan on the Pennsylvania exchange.

Kate Kozeniewski works with Resources for Human Development, which received a federal grant to be a designated “navigator” for people using the exchange.

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Government & Politics
10:54 am
Fri October 11, 2013

State Lawmaker Proposes Rules for Senior Centers That Offer Middle Range of Care

A state House Republican is trying to spread an idea that began in his district for a different kind of senior center.

Rep. Chris Ross of Chester County says Pennsylvania regulations already allow for senior day centers for those who are looking simply for activities, as well as those who need close supervision.

But no rules exist for centers that offer a middle ground.

Ross says he’s proposing regulations to help seniors who can walk and care for themselves, but may need light supervision during the day at an activity center.

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Courts
10:44 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Schuylkill County Judge Seeks More Information in Assisted Suicide Case

A Schuylkill County judge has asked for legal briefs from both sides of a case involving the prosecution of a woman charged with assisting in her father’s suicide.

Barbara Mancini of Philadelphia is charged with a felony for handing her 93-year-old father a bottle of morphine.

Her father died days later in a hospital.

Lawyers are asking a judge to drop the case, which was referred to the state attorney general’s office after a county district attorney cited a conflict of interest.

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Government & Politics
11:13 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Schwartz Adds to List of Things Natural Gas Tax Could Buy

The early frontrunner in the Democratic race for governor is adding to the list of things a tax on natural gas could buy.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz says she would set aside money for large-scale transportation projects that can attract private investment.

Schwartz says the so-called infrastructure bank would not substitute PennDOT, but it would supplement the agency in order to launch things like rail and subway expansions as well as port development.

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Education
4:52 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Pennsylvania's Struggling Schools Identified for Extra Help

For the first time, Pennsylvania is identifying its poorest-performing public schools that will receive extra help from the state to get up to speed on reading and math scores.

The names of the 92 so-called priority schools are being released Tuesday in an effort to comply with the commonwealth’s federal waiver from the No Child Left Behind education law.

Under the new requirements, as many as 10 state contractors called academic recovery liaisons will be hired to assist priority schools.

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Government & Politics
7:49 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Top Openly Gay State Official Denounces Corbett's Same-Sex Marriage Remarks

Pennsylvania state government's top-ranking openly gay official says she's saddened by Gov. Tom Corbett's comments about gay marriage.

"I work for a governor that, I believe, has done a great disservice to the commonwealth," said Terry Mutchler, head of the Office of Open Records, veering from her typical talking points about government transparency in a speech she gave to archivists and historians Monday.

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Government & Politics
11:44 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Breast Cancer Legislation Illustrates Tension Between State Lawmakers, Doctors

With October being breast cancer awareness month, state lawmakers have queued up a couple proposals they think address problems in treatment.

But pushback from the medical profession shows a long-observed tension between doctors and the state lawmakers who try to regulate them, over and above the state’s Health Department.

A proposal before the House and Senate would require that women who undergo mammograms be told by radiology facilities if they have dense breasts.

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Government & Politics
9:21 am
Fri October 4, 2013

State Lawmaker Seeks to Outlaw 'Revenge Porn'

State lawmakers are already considering efforts to tamp down bullying online, but one Democrat wants to quash a very particular kind of harassment.

Sexually explicit photos or videos that are posted without the consent of the person they feature have become known as “revenge porn.”

It’s illegal in New Jersey and was just banned in California.

Sen. Judy Schwank of Berks County said she’s talked to people whose reputations, job opportunities and safety has been affected by material their ex-spouses or ex-lovers posted online.

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