Starting Jan. 8, all visitors to the West Virginia State Capitol building must enter through a screening checkpoint, the Division of Protective Services has announced.
The main public access point for the State Capitol, also known as Building 1 of the W.Va. Capitol Complex, will be the west entrance to the West Wing, opposite the state Culture Center. This is the building’s closest entrance to the new Bus Turnaround Loop as well as to metered public parking north of the W.Va. Veterans Memorial.
“These new measures are in line with security procedures at many other state Capitol buildings across the country, and a number of other public buildings in West Virginia including libraries and courthouses,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “Our Capitol is one of the most beautiful Capitol buildings in the country, and we want to encourage West Virginians and visitors alike to visit and learn more about our state. We must also do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our employees and visitors, especially our school children, while maintaining open access for all.”
Whenever the Legislature is in session, a second directed public access point will operate at the east entrance of the East Wing, along California Avenue. That access point will be available starting Jan. 10, when legislators begin the interim meetings that precede their 60-day regular session.
The State Capitol building is the seat of West Virginia’s elected government. Representatives of all three branches – the Legislature, the Supreme Court, and the constitutional officers of the executive branch – have advocated for these reasonable safety measures.
“We are blessed to have such a beautiful Capitol building, and I want to make sure everybody who comes through our doors feels safe, whether they’re a visitor or a Capitol employee,” Senate President Bill Cole said. “It is critical that we take these necessary steps to increase security and be prepared now, and not wait until it is too late to act.”
Both access point entrances are wheelchair accessible. Access point hours are Monday-Friday, 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday and holidays, noon to 5:30 p.m. Access point hours will be adjusted when necessary to accommodate state government meetings.
All members of the public, including visiting media, contractors and vendors, must pass through an access point to enter the State Capitol as of Jan. 8. Each visitor will be screened by a magnetometer, and will be asked to empty their pockets into provided containers so those items can be inspected. Briefcases, purses, packages, and similar items will be screened by an X-ray machine.
Visitors will not be allowed to enter the State Capitol with prohibited items. Prohibited items include dangerous or deadly weapons as defined by W.Va. State Code §61-7-2, and personal defense items such as pepper spray and mace.
Other items and materials may be prohibited if they appear to pose a risk to people or property. Visitors are urged to apply common sense and be mindful of this prohibition before they enter the Capitol Complex grounds. It is the responsibility of visitors to ensure that they do not possess prohibited items before they seek to enter the State Capitol. Prohibited items will not be stored, confiscated or otherwise disposed of by access point personnel. Any visitor who refuses to submit to a screening will be denied access to the State Capitol building.
State employees and other individuals with electronic card access to Building 1 can continue to enter the State Capitol through the building’s other entrances. However, access card holders will be subject to screening if they enter through a directed public access point. Access cards will be revoked if they are used to allow others to enter the State Capitol. Propping open building entrance doors is prohibited as well.
The Division of Protective Services, also known as the Capitol Police, is part of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.