The final night of the legislative session at the Capitol has spawned many traditions over the years.
Punch-drunk (or just drunk) lobbyists and other hangers-on linger outside the chamber deep into the evening, while lawmakers frantically seek closure of the year’s legislative business.
It is a short stroll to the wooden rail circling the rotunda on the historic building’s second floor. But it is a daunting task to lean over that rail and land a coin inside the exposed crown of the Queen Isabella statue planted on the first floor below.
That hasn’t stopped scores of staffers and lobbyists from trying over the years. Think of it as an unsubtle metaphor for the role of money in politics, if you like. As the sun rises after the final night of session, dozens of pennies strewn on the floor glitter.
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But something may have gone awry in 2014, when the statue was found to be short a chunk of the finger of the page boy next to Isabella. Some speculated flung currency was to blame, though that theory had its doubters. No definitive explanation emerged.
Regardless, on the afternoon of the 2016 session’s final day Wednesday, make-shift signs appeared around the rotunda deterring would-be revelers: “PENNY TOSSING STRICTLY PROHIBITED!!!”
This being the Capitol, one observer noted that the admonition mentioned nothing about dimes or nickels.
“Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella is over 130 years old and is a valued treasure in the State Capitol,” said Assembly administrative chief Debra Gravert. “Tradition or not, coins should not be tossed at this priceless piece of art.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated 11:55 a.m. Sept. 1, 2016 to correctly identify the part of the statue that broke in 2014.