JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Retired Teachers Association (MRTA) announced Wednesday afternoon they would cancel their seventh annual lobby day at the Missouri Capitol.
The reason? An announcement on the MRTA website said it was “due to increased security measures by the new administration.” The Office of Administration installed three metal detectors at three of the Capitol buildings entrances to start screening visitors Jan. 10, each staffed by two or three security guards at a cost of $415,000.
“These new security measures present complications and logistical problems for getting over 1,000 members through security and into the Capitol building in a timely manner,” the statement said. “We are so disappointed with the lack of access to the Capitol that is now in place.”
Jim Kreider, the executive director of MRTA, added it would be unfair to ask his organization’s members, many of them elderly with health problems, to stand outside in line in potentially cold weather.
MRTA will now be writing e-mailing or calling their elected officials Feb. 15th, instead of offering their chicken dinner on the third-floor rotunda and visiting with legislators to address issues important to them.
Kreider worries other groups will also have to cancel their events to speak with members of the General Assembly, and some legislators share those fears. Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, stated classes of schoolchildren from his district had just started coming back to the Capitol, but he feared the logistics of the new security measures could dissuade groups because of the hassle.
He added he would not want to attack anyone implementing the new policies because he understands “the day and age we live in.”
“But this is the people’s house and I believe the access should be free and easy to get in,” he said. “This makes it extremely difficult.”
Other legislators have presented a less nuanced view of the new security measures. Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, posted a sign on his office door informing any Capitol visitor with a concealed and carry license they could borrow a gun from his office during their stay in the building.
— Randy D. Dunn (@MORepDunn) January 12, 2017
In a Facebook post, he also decried the new metal detectors as “not freedom and liberty.”
“Members in general have had a lot of heartburn about it, seeing how difficult this is really going to work out,” Brattin added. “I know people have the thought this is going to be a good thing, but the logistics of it are going to be pretty difficult.”
The Office of Administration did not respond for comment as of press time.
Kreider believes the administration needs to consider exactly what message it wants to send by heavily regulating entry into the state Capitol.
“You have to make it a choice if you want to make it the people’s building or are you going to put up a roadblock,” he said.