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Security stepped up in Annapolis

January 09, 2002

Security stepped up in Annapolis



By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


Visitors to Maryland's State House, whether they be Girl Scouts or lobbyists, have been able to freely roam the halls of the legislature.

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"Citizens had the run of the place. Everybody would come and go as they pleased," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

But that was before Sept. 11.

Now, all guests to the Maryland General Assembly are greeted by locked doors and metal detectors.

"I think it's very unfortunate, but in times like this they have to be careful," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

Donoghue and other Washington County lawmakers lamented the loss of unfettered access.

"It's very bad symbolism for a democracy to have locked doors," Munson said.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said it will change the whole dynamics of the legislature.

"It's going to put us further away from the people, and that's a shame," Shank said.

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Visitors to the State House will have to use one of two public entrances. There will be one entrance each for the Miller Senate Office Building, the Lowe House Office Building and the Legislative Services Building.

The security measures are similar to those taken at other public buildings in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We have worked very hard to make sure our government is as open as possible and to ensure the safety of the people who work and visit here," said Peta N. Richkus, secretary of the Maryland Department of General Services.

Visitors should allow extra time when coming to Annapolis and they might want to consider leaving unnecessary baggage in their cars to save time.

Lawmakers and state employees are being issued state photo identification cards that allow them to bypass the metal detectors. Lobbyists and reporters are being issued frequent visitors identification cards.

In addition to entrance security, visitors will see more Department of General Services police officers patrolling the State House and its grounds.

New travel and parking restrictions ban trucks from State Circle between North and School streets.

"It's going to take a little bit more time but I think people will understand," Donoghue said.

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