Harrisburg GOP to Fetterman: Go fly a kite, not a flag

By: and - November 20, 2020 2:13 pm

Pride flags are flown outside Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s capitol office. (Photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Harrisburg Republicans are sick and tired of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s flags. So, they’re banning him from flying them.

A temporary budget set to pass this week is on track to include a provision prohibiting any flag except the American flag, Pennsylvania’s state flag, or a flag honoring missing American soldiers from flying over the state Capitol building or Capitol grounds.

The draft language also bans banners, posters, or temporary signage from hanging in the Capitol’s external windows, balconies or alcoves.

The move is a transparent shot at Fetterman, who has flown an LGBTQ pride flag and a marijuana legalization flag from his office’s balcony — a prime piece of Capitol real estate that overlooks the building’s front steps and can be seen blocks away in downtown Harrisburg. 

The provision was tucked into the state’s fiscal code, an omnibus bill passed every year with the budget that includes instructions on spending. The bill often becomes a vehicle for lawmakers to enact policy changes big and small – from tweaks to state alternative energy law to a rule regulating Capitol flags.

The language was included in an amendment filed by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, Friday.

Through his spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher, Corman didn’t take responsibility for the flag ban. 

Kocher said she didn’t know who wrote the flag provision, and that the amendment Corman introduced represented the entirety of the agreed-upon fiscal code — a document that receives input from leaders in the House, Senate and executive branch. 

For Pride Month, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is displaying LGBTQ flags outside Capitol

Fetterman declined to comment for this article Friday, but took to twitter after it was published.

“It’s kinda flattering that they changed Pennsylvania law just for me,” he said. He added he only planned to take the flags down once the state legalized marijuana and approved human rights protections for LGBTQ citizens.

As Gov. Tom Wolf’s second-in-command, Fetterman has used his bully pulpit to champion progressive causes and cut a visible profile in national media. 

His job also requires him to preside over the state Senate — a role that’s seen him clash with Republican lawmakers. 

Republicans said Fetterman failed to do his job in June 2019 when he didn’t sanction Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery, as she launched a protest on the Senate floor against a vote to eliminate a cash welfare program. 

The episode led to a shouting match as Republican leaders implored Fetterman to enforce the chamber’s rules and accused him of acting “like a partisan hack.”

The Republican caucus sent Fetterman a letter one week later, telling him to learn Senate procedures or cede his rostrum to someone else. 

Fetterman’s use of flags has seemingly stuck in Republicans’ minds. Speaking at a Capitol rally earlier this month, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, derided the marijuana flag Fetterman displays inside his office, which does not appear to be impacted by the rider in the fiscal code. 

“I walk into the Capitol there and I see the grandeur of the building there, and I walk in and [think] ‘how did someone like Doug Mastriano get into this building?’” Mastriano said. “My dad was a high school dropout. And then I go up the steps by the Senate and I see Fetterman’s office with a weed flag and I’m like, ‘I guess I can be here; you can do far worse than me.’”

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.

Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.