Idaho Legislature To Consider New Statehouse Access Rules on Monday

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Beginning early Monday morning, Idaho lawmakers will take up new rules governing the public's access to the State Capitol, the Capitol steps and grounds, and property across the State Capitol compound.

"The No. 1 rule is that there shall be no law infringing the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or the right to petition for addressing your grievances," said Ritchie Eppink, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho. "And we're also provided further protections in our Idaho Constitution that we have the right to consult together for the common good and to instruct our representatives. Those are the rules, no matter what this state does."

But the Idaho Department of Administration does indeed have rules, plenty of them. Beginning Monday morning, the House and Senate State Affairs committees (in separate meetings) will take up the department's "rules governing use of the interior and exterior of state property and the use of the Idaho State Capitol exterior."

In the current edition of Boise Weekly (BW, News, "The People's House?" Jan. 9, 2012), we examine some of the new rules, which forbid use of sidewalk chalk, candles or open flames, and a ban of signs to walls or windows—not unlike the hundreds of Post-It notes that Add the Words affixed to Statehouse doors in an effort to add the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to Idaho's human-rights protections. The new rules also include restrictions on all-night camps or protests, similar to 2012's Occupy Boise encampment, which was poised on Capitol Mall property across from the Statehouse.

"Having a packed room with a lot of people testifying is really important," said ACLU Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins. "It's part of the public process. If we just apathetically cede to the government, we might as well have a fascist state. Part of understanding your rights is exercising your rights, especially at those times when you feel it might be futile."

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