by Andrew Crisp
Citizens can now get their first look at two sets of proposed rules designed to curb demonstrations, not unlike Occupy Boise, on state property near the Idaho Capitol. The 2012 Idaho Legislature gave the green light to the Department of Administration to authorize new rules regarding behavior on Capitol Mall properties.
In two documents, one covering the interior of the Capitol Building, and another covering the grounds around the Capitol, the Department of Administration created definitions, time constraints and limits on “events” and “exhibits,” even as free speech, on the Capitol Mall and other Idaho state lands.
“The duration of an Event or Exhibit shall not exceed eleven (11) consecutive hours, or seven (7) consecutive days, including time for set-up and clean-up,” the department wrote.
It also limits events and exhibitions to the hours of 7 a.m.-6 p.m., which sets more restrictive limits than Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s decision in February, which barred only sleeping on state property.
Damage to the state’s grass areas, use of bicycles on unapproved pathways, affixing signs and cooking on state property are all banned under the current wording of the rules. Those restrictions could be interpreted as grounds to evict the group occupying the lawn off Sixth Street.
The rules come as the result of a bill passed by the Idaho Legislature in the final days of the session, which passed along a party line in both chambers, originating in the House Ways and Means Committee. During that hearing, lawmakers supporting the measure said it gave the State greater authority over public lands.
"This keeps in place [Judge B. Lynn Winmill's] order, and the judge has equated the erection of monuments as symbolic speech," said Oakley Republican Rep. Scott Bedke. "But if the erection of monuments is speech now, or expression, then it becomes no different than the four pages of rules we have if you’re going to exercise your First Amendment rights on the Capitol steps."
The move also allows the Department of Administration to limit use of Capitol Mall and other state properties through other temporary rules. That includes limits on activity within the Capitol Mall and Idaho State Capitol exterior, both of which include more extensive bans on protest and behaviors.
The Department of Administration is accepting written public comment on the proposed rules through 5 p.m. on Friday, June 1.