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Statehouse stairway closed to interns

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Statehouse tradition may be coming to an end.

It’s a tour that has been given to interns in the House of Representatives for a generation or more. This year, those interns have been told that they can no longer walk up a secluded staircase inside the Statehouse dome.

Inside the building, all you see of the dome is the stained glass that hangs above the rotunda unless you go up a staircase behind a locked door on the fourth floor of the building.

“I was able to go up there, and I was like, this is an awesome place,” said state Representative Tim Wesco (R-Elkhart,), who was amazed by the 360 degree view of downtown.

You can also find signatures and dates written on the walls, initials placed in the dust.

You can look down on the stained glass.

A couple of years ago Wesco arranged to get his girlfriend up there so he could propose marriage.

“I surprised her, too,” he said. “She wasn’t expecting that, flowers up there and everything else. It was really neat. We were on top of the world!”

And that’s what the interns who work long hours for low pay were looking forward to until this year’s tour to the “top of the world” was cancelled.

Since the 1980s, House Democratic Communications Director John Schorg has escorted them up there or arranged for someone else to do it.

“We have a host of very disappointed interns,” he said, “who always kind of look upon this as a rite of passage as the internship comes to a close. They get an opportunity to go up in the dome, sign their names like years upon years of people have done.”

Schorg is disappointed, too.

“And you don’t know why,” he said, “and it just doesn’t make any sense.”

The interns were told that the tour was cancelled for liability reasons. Those interns, by the way, aren’t permitted to talk to the media.

A spokeswoman for the Pence administration says it is reviewing tour requests and no final decision has been made regarding future tours.

The governor, by the way, took the tour to the dome not long after taking office in 2013.