Lawsmakers, workers, visitors adjust to Capitol's new security

Sunday, January 27, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Since the legislative session opened Jan. 9, the activity that often accompanies the arrival of lawmakers at the Capitol has been as feverish as ever.

Legislators rush from hearing to hearing with mounds of paper in their hands. Lobbyists troll the hallways with cell phones glued to their ears. Special interest groups hold rallies in the Capitol Rotunda.

Life inside the marble corridors of the Capitol has returned to normal -- with just a few adjustments caused by the events of Sept. 11.

Visitors have fewer entrances, and must go through metal detectors unless they have special state-issued badges or prior approval for entry.

That's about the only obvious change.

Neither more nor less

Lynne Schlosser, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, said the system of security badges and metal detectors seemed unorganized when it began last fall. Now that she has her pass, all's well.

"I just walk through the door every day. I don't feel any more secure than I did last year or any less secure," Schlosser said.

Public officials want the Capitol to simultaneously seem safe and accessible.

On one unseasonably warm January day, Gov. Bob Holden defiantly announced that the massive bronze doors on the south side of the Capitol would reopen. They had been closed in response to the attacks.

"We have opened, and will keep open, these magnificent bronze doors to our state Capitol as we welcome our citizens and as a reminder that state government will remain the free and open process we have enjoyed in the past," Holden said.

House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, said the bronze doors were reopened on the insistence of lawmakers, who wanted a visible welcome to visitors.

"It's important to me that we don't fortify this building," Kreider said. "I understand the need for increased security, but it's important that we don't go too far."

None seem bothered

For the most part, lawmakers agree that additional security was needed and none seemed too bothered by it.

"I think the new security measures are for the best," said Sen. Ronnie DePasco, D-Kansas City. "Times change. ... I don't think anyone in the Legislature has complained about it."

The last time Capitol security was beefed up came after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Missouri officials discussed metal detectors but opted against them. Instead, they stopped vehicles from driving through the carriage tunnel under the Capitol's front steps and erected a security shack at the entrance to the Capitol basement.

The most recent security improvements were put in place about a month after Sept. 11, based on advice from Holden's new homeland security chief, Tim Daniel.

Before the legislative session, there were concerns that the metal detectors would cause delays as crowds of people arrived.

"When we started this in October, I thought we would be managing a train wreck when session started, but that has not happened," said Mark Allen, who has overseen the changes for the state Office of Administration.

Capitol regulars with photo security badges just flash them at police and walk past the metal detectors.

More than 500 security badges have been provided to lawmakers and staff with an additional 200 to 250 expected to be requested by lobbyists.

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