TARGET 8: Missouri Capitol security causes problems for some visitors
JEFFERSON CITY - If you've been to the Capitol since the start of 2017, you may have noticed something very different.
Metal detectors, X-Ray machines, and law enforcement: The "People's House" is beginning to look more like your nearest airport.
New security measures
Daniel Adam Crumbliss, the chief clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives, told state employees about these additions in memo sent out on January 4, which has been obtained by KOMU 8 News. It has a Missouri Capitol Police document explaining that beginning January 10, visitors entering the Missouri Capitol will be subject to search, including screenings using X-Ray conveyors and walk through magnetometers.
Entrances that were once accessible to the public have been locked electronically leaving three ways for visitors to enter. Only state employees with keycards can unlock those entrances.
According to Representative Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood), these measures are also making it more difficult for citizen activist groups to access the Capitol and interact with their legislators. Already, the Missouri Retired Teacher's Association has canceled its annual lobby day.
“They canceled because they were concerned about security,” Lavender said. “They had buses coming over, they have 1,500 members coming over and seniors. And so the concern was how quickly can we get through security, we don't want them standing outside, in a February date if the weather's bad. So they canceled their entire lobby day, and this would have been their seventh or eighth in a row that they've done this. So I had huge concerns that all of a sudden the 'People's House' is no longer available to the people."
Shortly after new policy, guns allowed in Capitol
Interestingly, about a month after the new security measures went into place, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Gov. Eric Greitens' administration lifted a short-lived ban on allowing people with concealed-weapon permits to bring their guns into the Capitol.
The policy still prohibits visitors from carrying weapons into the House or Senate chambers or into committee hearing rooms. But Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey said there was no enforcement to ensure people comply.
Some lawmakers called for a new discussion about policies for guns in the statehouse.
Where did the new security policy come from?
“So, the questions I've asked have not been answered,” Lavender said. “One report told me it was Governor Nixon's administration that decided on this that it did not go into effect until the first day of Governor Greitens' administration, I would probably be more apt to think it was Governor Greitens who did this, I'm not sure why Governor Nixon on his way out the door would do it. And so those questions so far have been unanswered for me."
KOMU 8 News reached out to Greitens' administration and received the following response from Press Secretary Parker Briden: "These security measures were funded, approved, and the work was begun to install them long before Eric Greitens became Governor. All of these security measures were paid for in FY2016's budget, which we had zero input on..."
While these current measures already might deter groups of citizens from coming to the Capitol, there is a possibility circulating to allow paid lobbyists to bypass the process, raising even more questions.
“We have heard that the paid lobbyists might get speed passes,” Lavender said. “So they may get the same type of badge that I have in my pocket that allows them to have easier access as well.”
For legislators like Lavender, most agree upon a fundamental belief that has been a policy of the Capitol since it was established.
"It is the "People's House" and I want to make sure that everybody feels welcome, and has access to this building when they need to."