Security changes under consideration at Hawaii State Capitol

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In a corner of the Hawaii State Capitol, near one of the elevators, Rep. Tom Brower witnessed a man light a fire right in a doorway.

It burned for minutes until it eventually went out.

Brower says this is just one anecdote displaying the fact that security at the Capitol needs to change.

“We see a lot of evidence of vandalism, whether it’s the elevators or bathrooms at the State Capitol, and at times, there are people that may have a mental condition that often come to the Capitol and disrupt meetings or come straight into our offices and disrupt our work environment,” he said.

For visitors to the Hawaii State Capitol, like Phyllis Barnes from Northern California, open access to just about every part of the building was a surprise.

“It does surprise me. It had me speechless, and that doesn’t always happen, because I just thought that the governor would also be a bit reticent to having it so open,” Barnes said.

House Speaker Scott Saiki says it’s time for a security update at the Capitol, and introduced a bill that would change things drastically.

“For public safety purposes, we wanted to include all of the alternatives to make the public aware of what it would take to secure the Capitol,” he said.

Security improvements would include controlled access points with guards on the rotunda and chamber levels, along with fencing and barriers around the capitol grounds. There would also be new screening for weapons and contraband, and an increased security presence.

All of the underground public parking would be moved across the street to Kinau Hale.

“There are some extreme proposals, such as closing the underground parking lot to the public and relocating public parking next door, also creating barriers around the State Capitol so that cars can’t drive up into the Capitol area,” said Saiki.

Saiki says he anticipates the bill will be amended, and that some of the more extreme proposals might not make it through.

There’s no cost estimate as of yet for beefing up security at the Capitol.

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