If you have ever been to the General Assembly you have probably noticed security is not as stringent as at other state buildings. The Sergeant at Arms staff is there to keep the peace at crowded committee meetings and hearings, and you might see a police officer every once in a while. However, there are no metal detectors or security personnel monitoring the entrances to the Legislative and Legislative Office buildings.
A conversation about security is always a conversation worth having, especially during these times of heated political debate. If Senate Bill 632, “Upgrade Security Services—Government Complex,” sponsored by Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie) was an attempt to jumpstart the security discussion that would not be a bad idea. However, the bill seems to be more a blank check to government by providing funds without a lot of direction. While we don’t have a problem with making legislators and the members of the public that visit state government safer, we do have a problem with handing over $5 million dollars ($1 million to the legislature and $5 million to the NC Dept. of Administration) without any direction on how the money is to be spent.
But the worst part of this bill is the earmark within it. If the security bill passes in its current form, it would fund a $1 million covered walkway from the Legislative Building (LB) to the Legislative Office Building (LOB). That lands it a secure spot as the bad bill of the week.
For those who have never had to endure the hardship of walking the uncovered distance from the LB to the LOB, it is approximately a one minute walk. The distance is so short that when it’s raining it usually isn’t worth the time to get out an umbrella.
The proposed covered walkway is more about improving the comfort and convenience of the legislators than security. From a conservative perspective, we want the legislature in town as little as possible. So if this “bridge to nowhere” makes it more comfortable for them to be here, it’s definitely not a good idea. Members of the General Assembly like to project the image of being regular people who just happen to make decisions about state policy sometimes. This proposed million dollar “umbrella alternative” punches a hole in that façade.
Legislators shouldn’t let this one get to the architect’s desk. A million dollars is only a drop in the bucket in the context of the state budget, but it is still a million dollars that could have gone to something more vital or be saved for a true, rainy day.
Our elected officials don’t need a $1 million covered walkway and that is why SB 632 is the bad bill of the week.