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Lawmakers fight over security

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Lawmakers fight over security
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

No one disagrees that officials and visitors in the Minnesota Capitol complex should be safe, but there is disagreement about the cost.

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A proposal a state committee is considering would increase costs for security around 17 Capitol complex buildings from $9 million in the current two-year budget to nearly $17 million in the next one.

Two Republicans on the panel questioned the need to spend so much money in light of enhanced electronic security precautions that are being added in a $240 million state Capitol building renovation.

Major Robert Meyerson of the Minnesota State Patrol said outside experts called the proposed increase the “bare minimum” the state needs to keep the Capitol campus safe.

But Republican Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria and Rep. Kelby Woodard of Belle Plaine questioned that.

“It seems to me that we are kind of doubling up here,” Woodard said about adding both security officers and electronics such as television cameras.

The cost is too high, Woodard added. “This is a doubling of the budget in four years.”

Ingebrigtsen said that once more cameras are installed, there should not be a need for as many officers. However, the longtime law enforcement officer said, cutting jobs “is really tough.”

Committee Chairwoman Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon said the 400 cameras already spread about the complex and 72 new ones do more good “after the fact,” but officers are needed to prevent crimes.

Ingebrigtsen and Woodard agreed that the number of state troopers should rise from the current eight to 12. But they disagreed with Democrats on the committee and Chief Justice Lori Gildea about the need to add to add security officers who do not carry guns.

The proposal for Capitol security growth calls for adding 27 to the 40-person force.

The committee backed a proposal to require the Public Safety Department to have full control of Capitol Security officers. As it is, a department may pay Public Safety to have an officer at its location.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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