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St. Louis legislator, governor tangle over security in state Capitol

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 3, 2012 - State Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, has introduced legislation to beef up security at the Missouri Capitol Building, a move that comes days after target stickers were placed on some legislators' office doors.

The senator filed a bill on Thursday to authorize the state's Office of Administration to contract with private firms to provide armed guards at the Missouri Capitol. She also seeks to restore the metal detectors removed from entrances several years ago.

It would also prompt the Office of Administration to set up video cameras inside the Capitol.

"I firmly believe scanners should be reinstalled at the Capitol entrance and that Capitol police be assigned to monitor the public as they enter," Wright-Jones said in a statement. "It is my understanding that these monitors were purchased through federal grant money available to states after 9-11, but were removed several years later due to budgetary constraints.  This equipment is likely stored somewhere on state property, and I intend to ask the Office of Administration about the possibility of reinstalling these safety devices."

The bill comes a little over week after orange target stickers appeared on a number of lawmakers' nameplates.  Senators who confirmed receiving the stickers include: Wright-Jones; Sens. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City; KiKi Curls, D-Kansas City, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City; and Victor Callahan, D-Independence. The nameplate of Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, was also stickered.

Wright-Jones also criticized Gov. Jay Nixon's recent comments against re-installing metal detectors in the Capitol. The governor, also a Democrat, told KMOX radio that if "we start spending a bunch of money and making everybody get wanded to come into their capital because a couple people put stickers on the wall, where are we as a society?"

In response, Wright-Jones said, "I think the governor was not feeling us when he made his statements last week. We have friends, family members -- people who care about our safety. If those targets had been on anybody but us, if they had been on his office or his family, he would have had a different response."

Wright-Jones discussed the incident further yesterday with Chappelle-Nadal during a filibuster of legislation altering workplace discrimination regulations.  (Click here to hear some of the floor discussion.)

Wright-Jones said that while the Capitol Building "is wide open -- as well as it should be -- to the public," she also believes "we need to keep them safe as well."

"We need protection in this building," Wright-Jones added later. "You can't go into City Hall, you can't go into the (St. Louis County Government Center,) you can't go to the courts, you can't go to the jails, you can't go to the schools, you can't go in Busch Stadium, you can't go into Scottrade Center, you cannot go into the (Edward Jones Dome) without having your bags checked or without going through some type of security."

In her statement, Wright-Jones added that the governor "showed an overall lack of compassion and understanding about this event. He is sadly mistaken to think that this incident should be taken lightly and not be given a full and thorough investigation."

The legislation was first-read on Thursday and has not been assigned to a committee.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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