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MN State Workers Call for Safer Conditions Amid Political Tension

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Minnesota's Capitol building has seen a beefed-up security presence following last year's civil unrest and this year's political tension. Members of a safety committee say some measures need to be permanent. (Adobe Stock)
Minnesota's Capitol building has seen a beefed-up security presence following last year's civil unrest and this year's political tension. Members of a safety committee say some measures need to be permanent. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN - Producer, Contact
February 4, 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A Minnesota committee is holding hearings on how to improve safety at the state capitol complex in St. Paul.

It follows January's riots at the U.S. Capitol, as well as protests held locally.

Leading up to President Joe Biden's inauguration, a number of states fortified their capitol buildings. While additional threats were thwarted, broader discussions continue about making Minnesota's Capitol safe for visitors, lawmakers and staff.

Jackie Mahon, a member of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees union who works at the state's public health lab in the Capitol complex, told the Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security due to COVID, her colleagues are working around the clock in a time of heightened tensions.

"We have been evacuated on short notice from the Capitol complex due to civil unrest, which was no easy feat considering the lab building does not have a functioning PA system," Mahon explained.

She also noted cement barricades set up during various protests have blocked staff from exiting the parking facility.

Mahon argued in addition to a public address system, safety communication needs to improve.

Committee members floated ideas such as adding more security officers, but with the state facing a deficit that could reach $1.3 billion, it's unclear if the extra money would be approved.

Before the election, Capitol security in Minnesota received heavier focus following the civil unrest over the police killing of George Floyd.

Mahon maintained as her staff tries to help the state through the pandemic crisis, their concerns need to be strongly considered.

"We want safety training and drills to practice in this ever-changing environment," Mahon urged. "We want a safe environment to continue our critical work for the state of Minnesota."

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who chairs the committee, said the panel could meet again as early as next week, and hopes to discuss the issue of firearms at the Capitol.

Current state law allows permit holders to carry handguns on capitol property, but long firearms are prohibited. The committee stated it also has to balance the needs of making the building accessible.

Disclosure: Minnesota Association of Professional Employees contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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