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Minn. Lawmakers Push For Increased Security At State Capitol

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Minnesota state officials are proposing a $30 million dollar security upgrade at the State Capitol complex in St. Paul.

The new security measures are in response to what law enforcement officers say is a higher risk for terrorism or violent protest.

The sweeping security upgrades on the Capitol complex include movable steel barriers to thwart a truck filled with explosives, hundreds of closed circuit cameras mounted in and on buildings, and shatter-proof glass.

State officials say they're worried about an increased risk of terrorism.

"On any given day, there are thousands of people in this Capitol area complex," Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Jim Nash (R) said. "And we have got to get this done. It can't be a political issue anymore. It's gotta get done."

Buildings listed as high risk security concerns include the State Office Building, Veterans Services, and the Minnesota Judicial Center, where thousands of state employees work every day.

But the security debate at the Capitol is about more than threats to the building, and heavy steel barriers.

In recent months, Capitol Security has grappled with a series of increasingly unruly, and sometimes violent protests. And thousands of angry protesters several times swarmed the Capitol inside, raising the question of whether Capitol protest permits should be restricted.

"The protest is very close and it's becoming very personal," Republican Senate Judiciary Chair Warren Limmer said. "And if it continues, I think we are just asking for it. Someone's going to get hurt."

Even if the money is approved, it will take a year to fully secure the Capitol area. Security officials say they will ask next year's legislature to fully fund the security improvements, which might not be completed until 2019.

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