Two Pennsylvania state lawmakers have recently been accused of breaking the law, causing complications and furthering partisanship on the floor of the state House of Representatives.
The Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus remains in the midst of controversy this week after Monday's resignation of state Rep. Frank Serafini, R-Lackawanna, and after state Rep. Thomas Druce, R-Bucks, was charged Thursday in connection with a fatal hit-and-run accident July 27.
Serafini announced his resignation on the House floor, telling representatives he was stepping down with "great regret."
The state representative, convicted by a federal court of perjury in November, is awaiting an appeal.
Druce, 38, is now facing allegations that he was involved in a hit-and-run accident in Harrisburg, which resulted in the death of Kenneth Reed Cains, 43.
"Druce is not convicted yet and 'innocent until proven guilty' applies," said Mike Manzo, press secretary to the House Democratic leadership. "It is going to be impossible for the House of Representatives to function with this hanging over them."
With regard to Druce, however, the Republican Party is still looking for answers.
"If he (Druce) was involved in that terrible, terrible accident, then he needs to step forward and face the consequences," said Steve Drachler, press secretary for John Perzel, Republican Majority Leader. Serafini's resignation, though, is still a bitter issue for some House Democrats. Manzo said the Democrats' position on Serafini remains unchanged since his conviction.
The Pennsylvania Constitution prohibits anyone convicted of perjury from holding office in the General Assembly or "any office of trust," Manzo said.
"I think it was time (that Serafini resigned). He is under an appeals process but many of us thought it was putting us under a black shadow," said state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff , R-Centre. "If he gets acquitted he can always come back and run again."
Attempts by the House Democrats to force Serafini out of office to hold special elections to fill his seat have been blocked by Republican House members who hold the 103 out of the 203 seats in the House.
"Their (Republicans) entire goal is to protect that seat and their 103 to 100 seat majority," Manzo said. "Serafini won the last election only by 200 votes and they fear losing that seat."
Serafini's resignation, effective Feb. 7, prevents any election for his vacant seat until November. Manzo said if Gov. Tom Ridge joins Texas Gov. George Bush as his running mate, the GOP anticipate votes will be generated for the vacant Serafini seat.