Security concerns close Kansas offices, curtail Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State office buildings near the Statehouse have been closed to the public and the Legislature has curtailed its meetings due to security concerns ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration in Washington, D.C.

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The closures came in response to an FBI warning about the potential for armed protests nationwide following mob violence Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol. Supporters of President Donald Trump, encouraged by unfounded allegations of election fraud, stormed the building, interrupting Congress' certification of Biden's victory over Trump.

“We encourage everyone to work remotely as much as possible Tuesday and Wednesday to limit traffic in the statehouse,” House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican, said in an email to colleagues Monday evening. “We encourage you to have your staff work remotely on Tuesday and Wednesday as well.”

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's office told lawmakers last week that it had information about potential events at the Kansas Statehouse on Sunday and later in the week, including Wednesday, the day of Biden's inauguration. The Sunday event did not materialize.

Kelly restricted access to the Statehouse and increased security in the area, then decided to close the offices near the Statehouse on Tuesday and Wednesday. Leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature said their chambers would conduct no major business on those days, and most committees postponed meetings.

The office of Senate President Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, also emailed senators Monday evening, urging them not to come to the chamber Tuesday and saying they would be marked present for the daily roll call. Both chambers scheduled only housekeeping sessions for Wednesday so most members would not have to be present.

About 200 Trump supporters rallied at the Kansas Statehouse on Jan. 6, but their event was peaceful, and they entered the building through its main security checkpoint. There were no arrests or problems reported.

Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, a Lenexa Democrat, was working from home.

“If there is an issue, I would rather be overly cautious than to have something happen where people are injured or severely hurt,” she said.

Kelly said the buildings closed include the three largest ones housing state agencies near the Statehouse. The state Department for Children and Families announced that it was closing its service centers in Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas, both days as well.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Marla Luckert announced that the Kansas Judicial Center also would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday due to security concerns.

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