Security at the Minnesota Capitol and surrounding buildings should be improved, said a report released Friday that avoided taking a position on the much debated issue of whether to add metal detectors.
Instead, a panel of lawmakers, officials and law enforcement officers recommended that Gov. Mark Dayton designate a cabinet-level security coordinator and the Legislature establish an advisory committee to monitor and respond to risks.
The Democratic governor gave full support to the recommendations and immediately assigned Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman to oversee Capitol security.
Dayton and GOP legislative leaders convened the panel in January after a mass shooting killed six and wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a dozen others in Arizona. But security at the Capitol, state court headquarters and other nearby buildings has been a worry for years.
The legislative auditor warned of "significant security vulnerabilities" in a 2009 report that raised concern about the lack of weapons screening. Capitol visitors don't have to go through metal detectors, but the building has numerous security cameras and armed personnel patrol the halls when the part-year Legislature is in session.
The latest report recommended that all or most of the funding for Capitol security come from the state's general fund, instead of a current mix of general-fund dollars and costs paid through contracts with organizations in the Capitol complex.
It said the state should pay to upgrade the tunnels under University Avenue during light-rail construction next year.
The report stepped gingerly around the metal detector issue, urging the advisory committee to look at permanent and portable metal detectors.
"There are unresolved questions about the need for weapons screening in the Capitol Complex," it said. "These issues were beyond the scope of this committee."
The panel also said lawmakers who have permits to carry concealed guns should be briefed on Capitol gun safety practices as part of legislator training or orientation.
Another recommendation was to change the law to allow the State Patrol to extend temporary protection to state officials other than governors and governors-elect.
"This report underscores what we already know: improvements need to be made in Capitol security for the public," said Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, who served on the panel.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)