Today was the mandatory public hearing on the proposed new rules put forward by the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
"The rule order amends Chapter Adm. 2, relating to use of state buildings and facilities. The objective of the rule is to obtain compliance regarding use of state facilities including the Capitol building. This objective will be achieved by codifying historical department practices and more clearly detailing certain provisions of the administrative code as informed by judicial interpretations." (You can read the new rules here).
You'll remember the old rules. Those are the ones that were put into place unilaterally to suppress freedom of assembly and freedom of expression (guaranteed by our state constitution) in Wisconsin's State Capitol (in other words, to quash the Solidarity Sing Along).
The old rules were just found to be unconstitutional: singers were arrested for singing, for holding 8.5 x 11" printed signs, for wearing slogans on their clothes, for gathering in groups larger than 4 without a permit, and when that proved untenable, for gathering in groups of 20 or more without a permit. Singers were issued citations at their homes and workplaces, sometimes days after the supposed "infraction."
Dive below Scott Walker's Secret Router for proof that Wisconsin's stalwart protestors continue to be the funniest and most creative. It's three years and counting, folks!
(Thanks to Rebecca Kemble for the photos and transcription of events at the public hearing today)
I hope the Capitol Police have tape measures on their belts to affirm that protest signs meet the new required maximum size!
Hundreds of citations have been dismissed, and the new rules aren't any less unconstitutional.
There is a Through the Looking Glass quality to all of this, isn't there?
Some selected testimony from today's hearing:
There is no foundation for these rules. 85 decibels is meaningless. It has to be at some stated distance. You didn’t let the consultant explain to you how to use it in a rule. It makes you look foolish. Report yourselves to the Legislative Audit Bureau’s hotline on waste, fraud and mismanagement.
I’d like to thank the DoA for the opportunity to squeeze a career’s worth of pro bono work within 18 months of defending singers from your rules. For the love of Pete, why would the department even consider restricting groups of people to 12? You’re trying to nickel and dime people’s rights. This is doomed to fail.
The whole code needs to be rewritten and you need to start with the assumption that the whole purpose of the building is to invite people in to express political speech.And then there's this. This is why we love Wisconsin's activists.