By Don Knox, STATE BILL COLORADO
Credentialed lobbyists who pay for and pass a background check would be allowed to bypass the security magnetometers at Colorado’s state Capitol under a bill being proposed by Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs.
“Security is important, nobody denies that, but … it has been my observation that people sometimes are stacked up literally 100 deep to go through security,” Liston said, adding that “children and older people” sometimes are forced to wait outside in cold weather.
Liston is pushing to have the bill heard early in the session so that it could go into effect sometime during the 2010 General Assembly, which begins Jan. 13.
The Colorado State Patrol is empathetic to the bill, Liston added. “I would hope they would be for this. It’s going to relieve their burden, quite frankly.”
Attempts by State Bill Colorado to reach a CSP spokesman Friday were unsuccessful.
Capitol Complex security has been a top issue for the executive and legislative branches since July 2007, when a capitol trooper shot and killed a man who verbally threatened Gov. Bill Ritter and state troopers while waving a gun.
But in each of the last two sessions, some legislators on both sides of the political aisle —notably House Majority Leader Paul Weissman, a Democrat — have backed measures calling for the magnetometers to be removed in favor of roaming plain-clothed officers trained to detect security problems.
Liston’s proposal is aimed at the 600 professional lobbyists who on any given day during the legislative session crowd capitol hallways and lobbies. They also crowd the magnetometers, he contends.
“Some of the lobbyists have been working there for literally 20 years,” said Liston, a financial consultant when the General Assembly isn’t meeting. “They’re well-known to the State Patrol … and sometimes they’re going in and out of the capitol half a dozen times or more a day. Every time they go out they have to be screened.”
Legislators had to file their first three bill ideas by Dec. 1, which is when Liston floated the security measure. He noted that the language for the bill itself remains in flux. “I’m waiting to find out from another party if this isn’t going to be merged or changed,” he said.
Liston suggested that he’s heard from opposition in some quarters, but he didn’t say from where. In an early draft, the Secretary of State’s office would have issued identification badges to the lobbyists, but that’s no longer the case, Liston said. The office already regulates lobbying activities.
Liston hopes legislators and government officials can avoid playing politics with a measure that would make things run more smoothly during the 2010 session.
“I think the issue is government efficiency. To me that’s what it boils down to,” he said.