Protesters chant ‘stop taking bribes’ in Pennsylvania House

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Demonstrators chanted “stop taking bribes” and threw dollar bills from a balcony in Pennsylvania’s House chamber Monday as part of a protest over state law that does not limit the value of gifts that lawmakers may accept from lobbyists and others.

Capitol police officers led the demonstrators out shortly after they began chanting in the House gallery, several stories above the chamber floor, as lawmakers and staff looked on.

They briefly interrupted the start of the House’s session, threw dollar bills bearing the word “bribe” in big black letters and unfurled a banner over the brass railing that read, “Some are guilty, all are responsible.”

It is the third episode in two years that demonstrators from March on Harrisburg have been arrested while protesting the state’s policy on gifts to lawmakers.

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Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has banned gifts to executive branch employees under his authority, and has repeatedly pushed the Republican-controlled Legislature to do the same.

Gift-ban legislation has been introduced before and seen no action. House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, on Monday pledged to demonstrators that he would support gift-ban legislation.

“There’s no doubt that I’ll support it, I’m a definite yes,” Turzai told them during a separate demonstration outside the Capitol.

However, he stopped short of guaranteeing that it would pass the House or even emerge from committee.

Most other states have laws limiting the extent of gifts that lawmakers may accept, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Lobbyists in Pennsylvania routinely dole out free meals, drinks and even tickets to expensive sporting events to lawmakers.

All told, 20 demonstrators were arrested on Monday, a March on Harrisburg spokeswoman said. Eight were arrested in the House chamber, while another 12 were arrested at the rear of the Capitol blocking an entrance, spokeswoman Emmie DiCicco said.

All were released with a citation, except for two who were expected to face a misdemeanor charge because they have an arrest record in connection with other protests, DiCicco said.

A Capitol Police spokesman did not immediately have details about the arrests.

DiCicco said the group is targeting the House because it believes there’s a better chance of getting legislation through the chamber. The Senate has a separate gift-ban bill pending in committee.

Both chambers approved an internal chamber rule banning most types of cash gifts to members in 2014 following allegations that some state representatives had accepted cash from a confidential informant in a criminal investigation.

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