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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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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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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