Included in the votes the Legislature’s budget committee took this week is a proposal that would require public safety officials to look at ways to bolster security measures in and around the state Capitol.
The language, which was passed on a 12-4 party-line vote Tuesday night, would direct the State Capitol Police to work with the Madison Police Department to finalize a report on safety measures for state employees and visitors alike.
But it’s unclear what exactly the study could entail, and whether it would include items such as suggestions for physical building improvements or contingency plans in the case of an emergency.
Still, Republicans stressed the measure would ensure police are working together to review day-to-day security practices. The analysis, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said, would help enhance security and could provide an updated look at the Capitol grounds "to reflect the world we live in today."
The Juneau Republican also pointed to "unlimited building access, surrounding structures, and unregulated delivery trucks" as areas that could pose safety risks.
Tia Torhorst, assistant deputy secretary of the Department of Administration, which includes Capitol Police, said she doesn't have any details outside of the language that the Joint Finance Committee approved, but she stressed Capitol officers regularly collaborate with other law enforcement officials.
Meanwhile, MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain said the department and Capitol Police regularly work together on security measures, particularly for marches and protests, given the nature of where each force's jurisdictions are.
For the most part, DeSpain said, Capitol Police oversee the building, lawn and cars parked along the Square, while MPD’s purview is largely from the Square’s curbs outward.
“We’re happy to work with DOA and look at safety plans and what we can do better," he said.
The motion doesn’t provide any funding for the study, which would need to be submitted to Gov. Tony Evers and lawmakers by Jan. 1, 2020, a point some Democrats seized on during debate Tuesday night.
Others also questioned the language’s intent, while Rep. Chris Taylor, of Madison, floated an amendment that would have officials study “any additional safety risk posed by people who carry guns into the Capitol.”
While open carry is prohibited in the state Capitol, concealed carry is allowed in parts of the building, save for the state Supreme Court and Capitol Police office. Lawmakers can also choose to prohibit firearms inside their offices.
But Taylor's suggestion was dismissed, as GOP committee members stressed the need for coordination among local policing officials in the event of a security risk.
“If it goes south here, that’s who’s coming to help is those agencies who also serve in this area and should be consulted on a thing like this,” said Rep. Mark Born R-Beaver Dam. “This is common-sense.”