State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Senator says Capitol convicts shouldn't be on display

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 23, 2014 1:32 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

The state Senate's most junior member is getting down to his first official matter of business: redecorating.

Portraits of past House and Senate leaders hang in the hallways just off the Capitol Rotunda. Three are of former lawmakers sentenced for corruption charges in 2012.

"I think it's wrong," said Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York), just three weeks into his term. "What message does that send - that we're OK with corruption?"

Wagner plans to introduce a resolution to take down the portrait of former Senate president pro tem Bob Mellow, sentenced in 2012 on corruption charges. His proposal would encourage the House to take down their side's portraits of former speakers John Perzel and Bill DeWeese, also sentenced in 2012 on similar charges.

Spokesmen for the House Democrats and Senate Republicans have noted that the portraits represent matters of historical fact. Some who work at the Capitol have suggested that removing all artistic renderings of bad actors in the building's history would require more than taking portraits off a wall.

Wagner said he's not trying to whitewash the legislature's history - he just doesn't want the wrongdoers to be on display.

"I think it would be more appropriate that those portraits be pulled down and either stored somewhere or put in another room - maybe there should be a 'wall of shame' room," said Wagner.

The proposal on portraiture would be Wagner's first piece of legislation since being sworn in three weeks ago after winning a special election as a write-in candidate. He said he's "laser-focused" on weightier matters as well, but that some things cry out for attention.

"It's like if you walk in your office and smell something dead, you find out what it is and get it out of the room," said Wagner. "Then you go back to work."

Published in State House Sound Bites

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