News Columns & Blogs

Fire alarm in the Statehouse one way to stop the debate

TOPEKA - Just when you think things at the Capitol are dragging, life gets interesting.

The House was in the middle of debating a procedural point - essentially arguing if they could or could not re-debate a measure allowing law enforcement to pull people over for not wearing a seat belt - when the emergency lights started flashing and klaxon blaring.

Rumor is a fire alarm triggered on the first floor of the Statehouse, but it could easily be a false alarm or dust kicked up from the renovation construction.

In the House at least, most people’s first reaction was to wait and see if the alarms such off. Then lawmakers started to slowly wander out.

Even in an emergency, the rules must be followed. Just before leaving, House Speaker Rep. Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchison, declared the House in recess.

Lawmakers, lobbyists, visitors and even journalists are milling about outside the building while the Topeka Fire Department checks out the alarm.

While the weather is lovely and it’s nice to be out side, this is a somewhat unwelcome disruption. Lawmakers are nearing the end of session, they could adjourn late tonight or early tomorrow.

After a busy night, the Senate is recessed to the sound of the gavel waiting for the House to take action on a handful of bills.

Earlier this morning, the House sent a energy bill to the governor’s desk. The measure way part of a negotiated agreement that allows one coal plant to be built in Western Kansas.

UPDATE: People are starting to trickle back in at 12:45 p.m. and the fire trucks are leaving so everything must have been given the all clear.

Topeka Fire Battalion Chief Ron Hufford said water leaked into a sensor in a construction area on the South side of the building triggering the fire alarm.

At 12:58 p.m., O’Neal gaveled the House back in.