UPDATE: Wis. officials, ACLU reach deal on Capitol permits

UPDATED Tuesday, October 8, 2013 --- 12:30 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin officials and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin say they have reached a deal to allow people to hold events at the state Capitol without getting permits.

Activities in the state Capitol have been a point of contention since state officials announced large groups must get permits for gatherings there. Dozens of people have been arrested since last summer for taking part in daily singalongs without permits.

The agreement announced Tuesday acknowledges the Department of Administration can require permits, but provides an option for those who don't want to get one.

Groups with 12 or more people can give the department advance notice of their gathering. The notice will not reserve the space like a permit would, but it allows people to avoid arrest.

Copyright 2013. The Associated Press.


UPDATED Wednesday, April 17, 2013 --- 11:26 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Civil rights attorneys are trying to convince a federal judge the state's Capitol access policy is unconstitutional.

Gov. Scott Walker's administration adopted rules in December 2011 requiring anyone who wants to hold a Capitol event or rally to obtain a permit. The policy defines a rally as a group of at least four people gathered to promote a cause.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in February arguing the policy violates free speech guarantees and doesn't serve any legitimate government interest.

ACLU attorney Laurence Dupuis told U.S. District Judge William Conley during a hearing Wednesday the policy is content-based and vague. Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar countered Capitol Police need to know how many people are in the building.

It's unclear when Conley might rule.

Copyright 2013. The Associated Press.


UPDATED: Monday, December 19, 2011 --- 5:30 p.m.
REPORTER: Chris Woodard
Twitter: @cwoodardnews

Arguments that a new policy at the Wisconsin State Capitol is unconstitutional, have some threatening to sue the state.

The ACLU says they think the only goal of the new Capitol access policy is silencing the opposition.

The same day changes to a Capitol access policy take effect, the solidarity singers are here there breaking the rules.

Organizer Chris Reedy says, "We will continue to be here next week, and the week after, and continuing on."

The problem is, the singers don't have a permit, something required for protests in the State Capitol according to the new rules.

Attorney William Turner says, "This new policy is, frankly it's stupid. It's just stupid."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin says the rules are unconstitutional. If they're not changed, they say they're willing to file a lawsuit against the state.

ACLU spokeswoman Stacy Harbaugh says, "The rules have been improved slightly but there are still some deep concerns for first amendment."

A spokesperson for Governor Walker's Department of Administration says they have listened to the public and have made changes to the policy. She says they don't plan on making any more changes.

She says the idea is to provide police with guidance on the permit process and says it's silly to suggest their purpose is to arrest people.

The Solidarity Singers say this is the people's house and they shouldn't need any permit to gather like this.

Dane County Board Member Barbara Vedder says, "We can't lose this right, not with this administration or any other."

Here are some of the ACLU's problems with the policy.

They say the Capitol is a public forum so there shouldn't be any attempts to restrict use by requiring a permit for groups greater than 4.

The administration has said they don't plan to make arrests but the ACLU argues it is still open ended in the policy.

And if people do sign for a permit, the ACLU worries they're signing away too many rights and would put themselves at risk of having to pay for extra police presence if the administration deems it necessary.

Turner says, "It's very hard to avoid the conclusion that, essentially what Scott Walker is trying to do is wall himself off completely from the people of Wisconsin."

The ACLU says they hope the new policy will not be enforced at least through the end of the year.

If no changes are made, and remember the administration does not intend to make changes, the ACLU says they are prepared to file a lawsuit against the state challenging the constitutionality of the policy.


UPDATED: Monday, December 19, 2011 --- 12:35 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin says the group hopes to work with Gov. Scott Walker's administration on changes to its new policy governing the issuance of permits for protests in the state Capitol.

ACLU spokeswoman Stacy Harbaugh said Monday the group hopes the policy will not be enforced at least through the end of the year. If no changes are made, Harbaugh says the ACLU is prepared to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the policy.

A spokeswoman for Walker's Department of Administration said Monday no additional changes have been made to the policy other than the revisions announced on Friday. Jocelyn Webster says anyone not in compliance will be asked to get a permit. She has said no arrests for noncompliance are planned.

UPDATED Friday, December 16, 2011 --- 11:20 a.m.

Revisions made to Wis. Capitol access plan

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker's administration says no arrests will be made if gatherers at the Capitol do not have the required permits to hold a rally.

Department of Administration spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said Friday that Capitol Police are working with singers who come to the Capitol every day to ensure they are in compliance with the new policy.

But Webster says even if they don't get a permit, no one will be arrested.

The new policy was unveiled earlier this month and on Friday some revisions were made by Walker's administration. All of the changes fully take effect on Monday.

The revisions clarify that families and lobbyists would not need a permit, but other groups of four staging events inside the Capitol are required to get one.

Copyright 2011. The Associated Press.


UPDATED Tuesday, December 6, 2011 --- 11:25 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Officials with Gov. Scott Walker's administration are defending a new policy covering access to the state Capitol despite objections from protesters who have become a daily presence in the building.

Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs and members of Walker's administration held the first of three public meetings on Tuesday to answer questions about the policy. About two dozen people attended and accused Walker's administration of trying to shut down free speech and arrest people for gathering to oppose him.

But Department of Administration Deputy Secretary Chris Schoenherr says the goal was to provide clarity and consistency about what is allowed.

People at the meeting spoke out about a provision holding organizers of events liable for police costs and requiring a rally of four or more people to get a permit.

Copyright 2011. The Associated Press.


UPDATED Tuesday, December 6, 2011 --- 8:35 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The public gets a chance to quiz members of Gov. Scott Walker's administration about its new policy restricting access to the state Capitol and requiring those organizing events to be liable for security costs and any damage caused.

The session Tuesday was the first of three hosted by Capitol Police and Walker's Department of Administration.

Concerns have been raised over the new policy released last week and free speech rights.

The policy allows for organizers or protesters or other events in the Capitol and state buildings to be billed for the cost of police protection. The policy comes after protests earlier this year that resulted in more than $8 million in police costs.

Copyright 2011. The Associated Press.


UPDATED Thursday, December 1, 2011 --- 1:45 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker's administration has instituted a new policy related to activity and displays at the Capitol and other state buildings.

The Department of Administration policy took effect on Thursday, the same day it was released.

Under the policy, all activity and displays in state buildings must be permitted at least 72 hours before the activity or display date.

The policy does allow for spontaneous events caused by unforeseen events.

Protests have been common since Walker took office, including a daily noontime sing-a-long of anti-Walker songs. Department of Administration spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster says the singers have been contacted to help them come into compliance with the new policy.

Webster says the policy formalizes what the practice had been. She says no one will be denied a permit based on content.


Posted Thursday, December 1, 2011 --- 1:30 p.m.

Press Release from Department of Administration

DOA Announces Updated Wisconsin State Facilities Access Policy
Updated Policy Affects All State Buildings, Including State Capitol

MADISON – The Department of Administration (DOA) today announced an updated Wisconsin State Facilities Access Policy, which applies to all state buildings, including the Capitol. The policy is effective December 1, 2011. Under the policy, all activity and displays in state buildings must be permitted. Application for permit must be received within 72 hours of the activity or display date. The policy does allow for spontaneous events, which will not require permits, and are precipitated by unforeseen events.

“Our goal is to provide equal and continual access for all Wisconsinites to their state buildings in a way that is reasonable and safe,” said DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch. “This policy ensures our ability to appropriately staff events for the safety of those participating. As always, we believe we can expect voluntary compliance with the permitting process and are committed to helping Wisconsin citizens in that effort.”

There will be an educational period between December 1 and December 16 to help familiarize groups with the new policy. DOA officials and Capitol Police will be leading informational compliance sessions in the Capitol basement at the following dates and times:
-Tuesday, December 6, 9-11 a.m.
-Thursday, December 8, 4-6 p.m.
-Saturday, December 10, 9-11 a.m.

Groups seeking to hold events or have displays at the Capitol are encouraged to use the new permit forms beginning today.

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