Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Secretary of State Martin closes Capitol on weekends 11 months of year

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 at 7:06 AM

click to enlarge NO WEEKEND VISITORS: Secretary of State Mark Martin has declared the Capitol closed to visitors on weekends except during the month of December.
  • NO WEEKEND VISITORS: Secretary of State Mark Martin has declared the Capitol closed to visitors on weekends except during the month of December.

Security fears apparently underlie Secretary of State Mark Martin's decision to close the state Capitol to the public on weekends, a decision reported this morning by Michael Wickline in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It will remain open on weekends in December so visitors may see holiday decorations. His office said in a statement:

This is a working building. Due to the circumstances of the world we live in today and out of an abundance of caution, we feel it is the safest measure at this time. It enables us to provide enhanced security for legislators and employees of the building whenever necessary.

Reaction from other Republican officeholders was not enthusiastic. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he hoped the Capitol could be open on weekends during peak tourism seasons — spring break and summer, for example. House Speaker Jeremy Gillam was caught off guard. Senate President Jonathan Dismang said he'd like the building to be open, but acknowledged security concerns.

The office has for weeks now been preventing traffic from passing through the vehicle tunnel under the front steps on weekends. It puts up temporary barricades to block the drive.

The secretary of state is keeper of the Capitol and Capitol grounds, a duty, by the way which does not extend to other buildings on the grounds (save the Capitol Hill Building) or even most of the grounds. That falls under building services. This is what the state's founding document, its Constitution, says about the office's duties:

The Secretary of State shall keep a full and accurate record of all the official acts and proceedings of the Governor; and, when required, lay the same with all papers, minutes and vouchers relating thereto, before either branch of the General Assembly. He shall also discharge the duties of Superintendent of Public Instruction, until otherwise provided by law.

Other duties are spelled out by statute. That means they are within the ability of the legislature to alter. I can understand a reluctance by the legislature to meddle with decisions of a constitutional officer, on the other hand — Regnat Populus.

Quick web check indicates the Missouri, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma capitols are open daily (Texas well into the evening hours and concealed carry permit holders need NOT (I wrote this incorrectly originally) pass through the security check). The Mississippi and Tennessee capitols are closed weekends.

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