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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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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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Tue September 3, 2013

State Senate Republican Taking Another Shot at Medicaid Expansion

A state Senate Republican is taking another shot at expanding the commonwealth’s Medicaid program.
    
Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County is returning to the issue after failing to get final approval during the twilight hours of the June budgeting frenzy.
    
The Corbett administration is still in negotiations with federal officials over a possible expansion, and Vance says she’s not sure anything has changed.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon September 2, 2013

Pennsylvania Lawmakers Re-Draft Their Wishlists

With a failed transportation funding deal at their backs and one last opportunity this fall, state lawmakers are re-drafting their wish lists for how it can get done.

State officials are looking for a tree of trust — an old-school way of politicking, if you will, on the issue of transportation.

House Republicans say they’ll need more cooperation from Democrats, who refused to help the GOP majority pass a proposal because they said it didn’t include enough money for mass transit.  

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Government & Politics
3:50 pm
Thu August 29, 2013

Poll Shows Small Percentage of Voters Say Corbett Should Be Re-Elected

A new poll of Pennsylvania voters shows only 20 percent of respondents say Gov. Tom Corbett should be re-elected next fall.
    
Franklin and Marshall pollster Terry Madonna chalks up low ratings to turnover in Corbett’s cabinet and among his top aides.
    
He noted Corbett has seen the departure of three top aides as well as two department heads since May, and his pick for new education secretary resigned abruptly just as the poll came to a close this week.

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Medicaid Expansion
10:04 am
Thu August 29, 2013

PA Looks to Other States in Medicaid Talks

If there’s any expansion at all to move hundreds of thousands more Pennsylvanians onto the Medicaid rolls, it’ll have to be custom-made for the commonwealth.

Department of Public Welfare Secretary Bev Mackereth says her staff is looking at how other states have made the expansion a partly public-private partnership – sending people to buy health care insurance from the federally mandated exchange and using federal dollars to pay for it.

Other things, she says, require more negotiation.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Tue August 27, 2013

Proposal Would Reduce PA General Assembly to Single-Chamber Body

On the heels of plans to shrink the size of the state Legislature is another to dissolve its bicameral structure.

Democratic Rep. Jaret Gibbons of Beaver County wants Pennsylvania to go back to its roots, when it had a single chamber General Assembly.

He says he doesn’t see why the only state with a unicameral legislature should be Nebraska, "who’s been doing this since the 30s."

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Government & Politics
4:25 pm
Sun August 25, 2013

Hearing Set for Process of Listing Endangered Species in Pennsylvania

The process of listing endangered species in Pennsylvania is about to get a hearing.
    
Companion bills in the state House and Senate are aimed at making the two independent commissions in charge of the designations run their regulations past another commission, as well as legislative committees.

Republican Rep. Jeff Pyle of Armstrong County, who’s sponsoring the House measure, says labeling animals “endangered” affects industry permits, so an appeal process should be in place.

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Transportation
5:50 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

PennDOT Identifies 1,000 Bridges to Get New or Tougher Weight Limits

PennDOT is placing weight restrictions on about 1,000 bridges across the state as a result of the Legislature’s failure to approve funding for infrastructure.

Secretary Barry Schoch said new or harsher weight restrictions will be posted in the next four to five months.                    

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Education
5:40 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Federal Waiver Paves Way for State-Designed Criteria for Judging Schools

The waiver Pennsylvania received from the federal No Child Left Behind education law paves the way for a state-designed set of criteria for judging schools.

The federal mandate that all students must be able to read and do math at their grade level by this year won't apply. Corbett administration officials say it would have been too high a hurdle for many school districts.

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Government & Politics
4:08 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

PA to Join 23 Other States in Voter Cross-Check Program

The agency in charge of overseeing elections in Pennsylvania is joining 23 other states that swap voter registration rolls to check for duplicates.
    
The commonwealth’s Department of State is looking to have the cross-check running by next year’s gubernatorial primary election.
    
Spokesman Ron Ruman said participating states’ voter databases will be compared for duplicates, and when one is found, it’ll be sent to local election officials.

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Government & Politics
12:21 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Cost Concerns Still Loom Large in PA Common Core Debate

The potential cost of implementing new statewide educational standards promises to be a prominent issue at a pair of upcoming state Senate panel hearings on the Pennsylvania Common Core.
    
The academic standards, which include assessments required for high school graduation, were developed within the commonwealth to satisfy federal regulations.

But they were engulfed in controversy this spring as critics suggested they represented top-down educational mandates.
    

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Government & Politics
5:50 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

State Officials’ Free Gala Tickets Lead To Discrepancies In Ethics Reports

A look at how public officials treated free tickets to an event in Philadelphia shows a wide variety of interpretations of the state ethics law.

In 2012, the Barnes Foundation celebrated its art collection’s new home with a gala in the new building. Between 2006 and 2011 the museum received more than $47 million in public funding.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Lawmaker Denies Hearing on LGBT Discrimination Bill

The Republican chairman of a key state House committee isn’t planning to schedule a hearing on a bill to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
    
The measure was referred to the State Government Committee, which is made up of 15 Republicans and 10
Democrats, and its ranking Democrat has prodded the chairman for a hearing.

But Representative Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County said he believes the majority of his panel opposes the bill.

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Pennsylvania
3:30 am
Mon August 19, 2013

State Attorney General Pressing on with Assisted Suicide Case

The state attorney general shows no sign of budging from the prosecution of a woman who allegedly helped her elderly father end his life in Schuylkill County.

Barbara Mancini of Philadelphia is being charged with a felony count after she admitted to handing her 93-year-old father, a hospice patient, enough morphine to end his life.
    
An end-of-life planning advocacy group is asking the AG’s office to drop the case.

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Government & Politics
4:29 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

State Senate Bill Would Compensate Attorney General's Office for Debt Collection Efforts

One lawmaker wants to allow the state Attorney General to add a surcharge to debts it collects on behalf of other state agencies.

Right now, the office of Pennsylvania’s top law enforcer goes after debts to state agencies, but isn’t compensated for its efforts.

Democratic state Sen. Tim Solobay of Allegheny County said it means taxpayers, not debtors, are funding debt collection.

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Government & Politics
6:56 am
Thu August 15, 2013

A Call to Centralize Tax-Exempt Determination in PA

State lawmakers are considering changes to the rules governing purely public charities — and what such institutions need to get a pass on paying taxes.

The Legislature recently took the first step in a lengthy constitutional amendment process to take more control in how purely public charities are defined.
    
A court ruling revoking a summer camp’s status had forced the issue.
    
But one local tax appeals board lawyer says the reason such cases land in court is because the state laws on the subject are already overly complex.

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Pennsylvania
8:16 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Running of the Bulls Recreation Coming to PA's Berks County Next Summer

A Pamplona-inspired running of the bulls is coming to Pennsylvania next summer.

A Berks County raceway is hosting the event, a recreation of the Spanish tradition.

Rob Dickens, one of the organizers behind the Great Bull Run, is staging events across the country beginning this month.     

He said the bulls run not because they’re angry, but because they’re trained – though he doesn’t imagine that will diminish the adrenaline rush for runners.

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Education
9:17 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Lawmaker Wants Earlier School Enrollment in PA

Across most of Pennsylvania, children aren’t required to go to school until they’re 8 years old, with a few exceptions.

But one state lawmaker is trying to change that.

Republican state Rep. Fred Keller of Union County said he wants to set the minimum compulsory age to 6 years old, the most common age minimum for school attendance in the country.

He said it seems like common sense to require earlier enrollment in schools.

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Government & Politics
3:30 am
Mon August 12, 2013

With Austerity Measures, PA Has Staved Off Court Closures

Tight state and local budgets have forced many states to close their courthouses or reduce operating hours, but in Pennsylvania, a number of austerity measures have staved off closures.
    
Lynn Marks, a court reform advocate, said it’s no small feat that Pennsylvania’s judicial system has weathered a recession without closures.

"Court funding is really a tricky issue," Marks said. "I mean, no one really thinks about the courts until they need them but when you have a case involving your family or your livelihood you know you want courts to be open and available.

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Government & Politics
4:03 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

Lawmaker Proposes Statewide Pension Plan for Local Police

One state lawmaker is proposing to create a statewide pension plan for municipal police officers.
    
The plan would not include automatic boosts in benefits known as cost-of-living adjustments and would mandate a 7.5 percent contribution from members.

Republican state Rep. Glen Grell of Cumberland County, head of the House GOP pension reform task force, said the statewide pension plan would only be optional for current local officers.

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Government & Politics
12:37 pm
Fri August 9, 2013

In Harrisburg, a Revived Effort to Downsize the State Legislature

Proposals to shrink the size of the state Legislature are back before lawmakers.

The Speaker of the House is reintroducing his plan from last year to cut 203-member House by 50 seats.
    
Last year his plan passed the House, but only after language to also reduce the size of the 50-member Senate.
    
The Senate didn’t advance the proposal.
    

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Government & Politics
2:16 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

County Commissioners Push Transportation Funding, Prevailing Wage Reforms

County officials remain steadfast in their support for more transportation dollars alongside reforms to the prevailing wage law.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania says the set wages unnecessarily boost the cost of road work for local governments.

Association president Christian Leinbach, a Berks County commissioner, said despite a coolness to linking reforms to a transportation funding bill, his group is still pushing for an end to prevailing wage.

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Public Safety
10:29 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Security at Public Meetings in Focus Following Township Shooting

The head of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors says the shooting this week at a township’s public meeting in Monroe County will refocus officials on safety and security.
    
Dave Sanko said additional funding to boost municipal safety measures would be nice, but it’s unlikely to come from the state, and it shouldn’t necessarily be the first thing on every township official’s mind.

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Government & Politics
10:25 am
Wed August 7, 2013

State Lawmakers Mull Changes to How Building Code Panel Operates

The state commission tasked with reviewing updates to Pennsylvania’s building codes may be in for a few tweaks in its operating procedure.

A 2011 law shifted the process for the panel to make it easier to reject than accept code updates, like energy efficiency and safety requirements.

Subsequently, the panel rejected all the most recent round of code updates, citing an inability to find consensus on some and an accumulation of too many costly updates over time.

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Education
10:41 am
Tue August 6, 2013

State Education Officials Try to Clear the Air Over PA Common Core

Corbett administration officials are waging a clean-up campaign to try to dispel some of what they call false claims about new Common Core educational measures the state plans to implement this fall.
   
Carolyn Dumaresq, with the state Department of Education, said the new measures will bring no mandated curricula or reading lists, and no nationally dictated tests.

She spoke to state lawmakers in an attempt to explain the new standards, which she says received the most intense public feedback on the standards in the past few months.

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