More security could be coming to the state capitol, but how will that affect access?

Bill would make sweeping security changes to State Capitol building

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When it was designed and built in the 1960s, Hawaii’s state capitol was meant to be open, reflecting the open nature of Hawaiian society.

That architectural openness is now seen as a security liability.

“I’ve had threats. A lot of people have had threats against them over the years,” said State Rep. Chris Lee (D-Kailua). “I worry more about my staff, honestly, because in this building, everything’s open.”

Lee is one of a group of representatives who introduced a bill to create a plan for better security at the so-called “People’s House.”

Possibilities include barriers around the capitol perimeter to block vehicles, fewer points of entry, and of course, metal detectors.

“The top things that came up were just basic screening to make sure people aren’t bringing weapons into the building,” said Lee. “Make sure people that people an’t drive cars up to the building. That could be a threat if there’s explosives or something in them.”

Another possibility would be banning the public from the capitol’s underground parking area. A new parking structure could be built across the street on Beretania, where the state Health Department currently stands.

The head of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center is concerned that it could discourage people who currently use handicapped parking stalls.

“The reason we have these accessible spots that are so close is that people don’t have to walk far. So I would hope they would factor that in, somehow,” said center executive director Lou Erteschik.

The measure was introduced before Monday night. That’s when a deputy sheriff shot and killed a man at the capitol after a struggle.

People are hoping there can be a balance between security and openness.

“Constituents can walk right in, they’re welcomed. And it’s kind of a beautiful thing, really," said Erteschik. “That’s what democracy’s supposed to be like, so you don’t want to ruin that or dampen that.”

The bill is headed to a vote before the full house. If it passes there, it will move on to the senate.

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