Lawmakers delay action on security upgrade for state complex

Indiana lawmakers told Gov. Mike Pence Friday that they need more details before signing off on his $873,000 plan to upgrade security at the entrances of the state government complex.

During a meeting of the State Budget Committee, Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley said action would be delayed until the administration provides the information — including about any potential hidden costs.

"The inference is we're just supposed to rubber stamp what you say is the right security procedure," said Kenley, R-Noblesville. "I'm a little uncomfortable with that suggestion."

Pence has previously said the plan was "about putting public safety first" in the "most efficient way for taxpayers."

One issue was the reluctance by Pence's administration to give a detailed explanation of the project, which calls for the installation of security turnstiles at the Indiana Statehouse and two neighboring office buildings, among other upgrades.

John Hill, Pence's deputy chief of staff for public safety, told the committee he was leery of putting too much information out in public because it could be exploited for weakness. The threat to Indiana officials and state employees is very real, he assured them.

"It's a little bit difficult to talk about security in an open environment," Hill said of the meeting, which was streamed on the Internet "There are people in this state that we need to be concerned about, and we need to be secure in the security of our buildings."

An armed and disgruntled employee could show up outside a government building, Hill said. There is also a threat from homegrown terrorists, he said.

"ISIS began this encouragement to spawn lone wolf attacks here in the United States, Hill said. "There are young people who are being inspired by foreign terrorist to do these kind of things."

Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, said the project shows Pence has misplaced priorities.

"We have a state agency that is devoted to protecting children from abuse and neglect that cannot perform its function because it cannot keep its staff," said Porter, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means committee. "And we are in engaged in a debate over whether we need to install turnstiles at some entrances of the Indiana Statehouse, as though we were talking about getting into an amusement park."

Pence announced this week that the Department of Child Services was hiring 113 additional caseworkers to help it deal with a big surge of neglect and abuse cases.

Kenley said he was worried the new security measures could require paying state employees overtime to supervise building entrances.

On a more basic level, Kenley said he was concerned the upgrades could result in "harassing the regular employees."

Committee members indicated they would take the plan up again at a future meeting once their questions were answered.

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