HARRISBURG - In the frenzy of finishing the state budget, slipping in a perk or two can become political blood sport.
For legislators, that could be money for a pet project back home. For lobbyists, it could be language that exempts their client from some onerous regulation.
For Lt. Gov. Mike Stack this year, it was flashing lights.
Stack's office alerted legislators that the Philadelphia Democrat wanted law enforcement officers who chauffeur him and other "dignitaries" to have more flexibility in using the car's flashing lights to get to events, according to four legislative and administration aides familiar with the request. The aides requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter publicly.
That would mean that Stack could halt traffic on, say, the Schuylkill at rush hour for any reason, not just in an emergency or other unusual situation.
Stack, like Gov. Wolf, is protected by state police. He has a state police driver and a state-issued SUV with police radio, sirens - and flashing lights.
Stack's flashing-lights request made it as far as drafting into formal language for the budget's fiscal code, according to a copy of it obtained by the Inquirer and the Daily News. The fiscal code has long been considered the go-to document for those who want to slip something into law under the radar.
It ended up on the budget's cutting room floor after Wolf administration officials sent down word to kill it, the sources said.
In a statement Thursday, Stack spokesman Gary Tuma cited "bipartisan interest" dating back years "in having those who drive dignitaries and who drive in the witness protection services program be afforded the same protection as emergency responders."
With the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia just over a week away, Tuma wrote, "the timing seemed right to have language on the books to clarify the law."
He also said the language was drafted by a Republican, although he would not say whom.
According to the draft language, "law enforcement officers performing witness or dignitary protection services" would have been exempt from adhering to sections of state law that lay out protocols for drivers of emergency vehicles.
One of those sections reads that lights and "warning systems . . . may only be used during an emergency, or in the interest of public safety," or when enforcing the law. Unauthorized use of flashing lights carries a fine of up to $1,000.
Stack's request would have thrown out those provisions for law enforcement providing protective services for "international, national and state dignitaries and candidates . . . attending events in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania including, but not limited to, national political conventions."
The proposed legislation did note that officers should still exercise care when flipping on flashing lights in nonemergency situations.
It was not clear which legislator served as Stack's godfather in the legislature for the lights.
Although Tuma called the proposed language a bipartisan effort, neither Democrats nor Republicans would admit involvement.
Stack is no stranger to lawmakers. He was a state senator for 14 years before he got elected in 2014 to be Wolf's lieutenant, if not always his best friend.
As lieutenant governor, Stack presides over the Senate, where he often raises eyebrows by injecting a lounge-like atmosphere into the staid workings of the chamber.
Stack is no stranger to controversy involving his car, either. In 2013, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in a review of legislators' expenses, singled out Stack out for charging taxpayers $600 for car washes over two years.