Citing security concerns, the California Capitol will convert its east door to a designated staff, lobbyist and media entrance starting next month.
In a memo sent Thursday to “All Assembly and Senate Employees,” the Joint Rules Committee laid out “Enhanced Safety & Security Measures,” taking effect Feb. 1, that will remove public access to the east door, which faces Capitol Park. Staff and lobbyists with valid Capitol ID badges will receive expedited entry.
Debra Gravert, the chief administrative officer for the Joint Rules Committee, said the terrorist attack in San Bernardino last month reignited discussions about the safety of the east entrance. While the north and south doors have external pavilions where visitors are screened, she said, the public is able to enter the Capitol directly through the east door.
“That’s probably one of our weakest security spots in the building,” she said. “The immediate risk is the governor’s office, which is right above that area.”
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Gravert said the alternative was to simply close access to the door, as security did in 2014 on the west side of the building facing Capitol Mall after they discovered that some visitors were able to bypass the metal detectors there.
“But then we’d only have two entrances,” she added, “and last year alone we had over a million visitors.”
Lobbyists have for decades been afforded the courtesy of applying for Capitol ID badges that allow them to jump long security lines, Gravert said, in recognition of their need to get to hearings. Last year, during the height of frenzy over the mandatory vaccine bill, metal detectors at the north and south entrances were temporarily set aside as a “designated staff/lobbyist line.”
“We added lobbyists because that’s just been practice,” Gravert said. She later clarified that reporters would also also be able to use the east entrance.
Editor’s note: This post was updated at 2:26 p.m. with additional comment from Gravert.