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
7:45 am
Thu October 3, 2013

House Lawmakers Pass Property Tax Relief Bill

A proposal to provide school property tax relief has passed in the state House, but it faces only middling indicators of success in the Senate.

The bill would let school districts opt to reduce or replace property taxes with other levies on earned income and businesses. The measure passed without debate in a legislative body whose members rarely turn down chances for comment.

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Government & Politics
11:30 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Bipartisan Coalition Pushing Online Voter Registration in PA

A bipartisan array of groups wants registering to vote to be as simple as a few clicks and an Internet connection. Their members urged state House lawmakers Tuesday to advance a proposal allowing online voter registration in Pennsylvania.

It's already legal in 17 states and available in 11.

In Pennsylvania, the state Senate unanimously approved an online voter registration measure. It is now before the House State Government Committee.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), said there are no plans at this time to hold a vote on the bill.

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Government & Politics
11:19 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Plan Before State Senate to Raise Judges' Age Limit

A plan to bump up the mandatory retirement age for state judges is nearing the next step on the long path to changing the state constitution.

Pennsylvania's state judges are forced into retirement at the age of 70, with a few exceptions for those who are younger than 78 and want to keep serving on a per diem basis.

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Health
5:58 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

State's Exchange Will Reveal Plans, Premiums

Federal health care exchanges go live Tuesday, giving people without insurance a chance to sign up for coverage that could begin in January.

Health advocates are already hailing greater access to care - insurance plans offered in the exchange will have to cover bases like preventive medicine.

For Lynn Keltz, director of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers Association, it means she should be able to find plans providing mental health care, something that hasn't been true for the plan she's found on the private market.

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Government & Politics
4:33 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Lawmaker Presents Alternative Plan for State's Pension Debt

A state House Republican is presenting a plan to deal with the state’s growing public pension debt.

The proposal by Cumberland County Representative Glen Grell differs significantly from ones offered by the Corbett administration and Republicans in the Legislature by making potential benefit reductions optional for current employees.
    
It relies heavily on borrowing to bring down pension payments scheduled to eat away at state and school district budgets, a move viewed with skepticism by the Corbett administration.  

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

State House Leaders Prepare for Possible Transportation Funding Showdown

State House leaders are gearing up for a possible showdown on transportation funding as soon as this week.
    
The Republican Majority Leader has said he would bring the long-stymied funding bill up for a vote in his chamber.
    
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said the governor would sign whatever can pass in the House, provided it doesn’t go below a $1.8 billion plan he offered earlier this year.

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Government & Politics
11:51 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Congresswoman Schwartz Unveils Beginnings of Education Plan

One of the expected front-runners among the eight Democratic candidates for governor is unveiling the beginnings of an education plan that focuses on early learning.

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that, if elected, she would build on state and federal programs in place to encourage pre-kindergarten for all four-year-olds and expand access to full-day kindergarten.

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Government & Politics
9:35 am
Fri September 27, 2013

Sen. Casey: Government Shutdown Would Affect PA

Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. Senator is warning the threatened federal government shutdown would be felt in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Bob Casey is denouncing the move by House Republicans to send to the Senate a resolution that would fund the federal government past October first, but only if the Affordable Care Act is defunded.

The stakes: a federal government shutdown beginning next month.

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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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