Sunday, June 03, 2007

Memorable Visit to Indiana Statehouse on eve of big changes

INDIANAPOLIS— From seeing the relatively cozy chambers of the Indiana State Senate to standing behind the speaker’s desk in the Indiana House of Representatives, an unusual close-up view of center for government capped my weekend here in Indianapolis.

Today's visit occurred just a day before new tighter security measures take effect at the Statehouse. When the building opens tomorrow, visitors will have to walk through metal detectors and screening devices that will check for guns, knives and other weapons.

I ran into one videographer from WTHR-Channel 13, the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, shooting exteriors of the capitol, presumably in connection with this story.

You can read what WTHR has on its site about the story here.

According to the Associated Press, visitors will not be allowed to bring in firearms or other weapons that can cause serious injury, such as certain knives, Taser guns, other stun devices, explosives and various chemicals.

But things were as open as they've been for the last 120 years at what some state lawmakers here in Hoosier State called "the people's building."

Maybe it was the fact that I went to four different entrances before getting to the right one for a Sunday afternoon tour. Since I was the only one in place for a guided view of Indiana Statehouse, I got to ask all the questions I wanted

Austin, the part-time tour guide made sure I knew every interesting detail about the construction of the Capitol, which took almost 10 years to build and was completed in 1888. He provided a great historical view of the stained glass ceiling which sits under the dome, including the manner in which crews keep it clear and why there is so much blue stained glass.

I was surprised at the access I was given to the floors of both houses of the Indiana legislature. Austin just took me right in and I was able to take photos at the front of the Indiana House of Representatives. He even posed for a picture.

Along the way, I learned that this part-time tour guide is a student at Marian College majoring physical education. You might think with all the historical and political trivia that he has to remember to give a tour of the Capitol, he must aspire to be one of those politicians walking the halls.

Actually, Austin aspires to be a high school coach.

After a great weekend attending the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, it was nice to get outside of the hotel and conference center and see some of Indiana’s capital city.

Even though I walked two of the four floors of the Circle Centre Mall and even picked up a souvenir t-shirt, seeing the seat of Indiana’s state government was the most memorable event of this day.

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