Liston bill aims to ease Capitol entry crunch

By Cindy Brovsky

If Rep. Larry Liston’s proposal is approved, the long security lines into the state Capitol could become much shorter by March.

Liston, R-Colorado Springs, is moving forward with a bill that would allow lobbyists who pay for and clear background checks by the Colorado State Patrol to bypass security. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, was set to be introduced early in the session.

“On any given day, we can have classrooms of students waiting in line with other members of the public while the lobbyists — some who have worked at the Capitol for 20 years — go through security,” Liston said. “The lobbyists may be in and out four or five times a day, and the state patrol knows who they are.”

Magnetometers were placed at the south and north entrances of the Capitol after a 32-year-old man threatened Gov. Bill Ritter in July 2007 and was shot and killed. Legislators, the governor and their staffs are given badges that allow them to enter the building without being screened by the state patrol.

The state’s 600 registered lobbyists would voluntarily pay for the background checks, and badges could be distributed by March, Liston said. Anyone who prefers not to go through the background check will continue to be screened at the entrance.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said the proposal was “reasonable” for lobbyists who regularly work at the Capitol.

However, Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, D-Denver — who hasn’t decided whether or not to endorse the bill — questions if convenience for the lobbyists could impact overall safety at the Capitol.

“I’m concerned about why lobbyists should get something not afforded to the public at large,” Carroll said.