Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna reacted forcefully to last week's Senate committee decision to reject new rules placing limits on time and place for public use of the Capitol block and Capitol Mall.
Luna rejected arguments that the rules are overreaching.
After two hours of testimony Tuesday, the House State Affairs Committee approved rules for interiors of buildings on the Capitol Mall, but voted unanimously to put off a decision on the Capitol grounds and mall. The committee did not set a time to revisit the rules. I had to leave to cover another committee, but Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review has a full account in her Eye on Boise blog.
Last week, the Senate State Affairs Committee rejected three sections in 39 pages of rules, which were prompted by last year's Occupy Boise encampment outside the old Ada County Courthouse. The rules approved by the Senate committee don't cover the Capitol building or the old courthouse, also called the Capitol Annex.
Beginning at 8 a.m. in the House State Affairs Committee, Luna played portions of two videos. The first was from Jan. 10 of this year, when a man wearing a firearm riffled over representatives' desks on the House floor, used a cell phone to take pictures of documents and phones, and reaching into a wastebasket.
"Our only resource in dealing with this behavior is to politely ask him to stop what he's doing," Luna said.
The second video appeared to be from the 2012 session, where a woman wearing a clown nose hangs posters from the railing of the rotunda. The security guard removes a poster, while the woman says, "What's the rule that says you can do that? Can you tell me the rule? You never cited the rule."
Said Luna: "That shows you what we are dealing with. That has become normal behavior."
The three sections rejected by the Senate are: A seven-day limit on protests and other events; all time restrictions, including a ban on events on the main Capitol steps between midnight and 6 a.m., and a requirement for a permit to use an amplifying device and a provision allowing police or Statehouse security to shut down a "disruptive" event.
The Senate asked the Department of Administration to revisit those sections. Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said it was a mistake to give the agency just 30 days to write emergency rules to deal with Occupy Boise.
Luna said the department "is not interested in going to the mat" on 24-hour use of the Capitol grounds and that sound amplification "doesn't cause us a lot of heartburn."
But she said rules regarding time of use on the Capitol Mall, limiting gatherings after dusk, "is a significant concern."
For any of the rules to be blocked, the House and Senate must agree on changes.
After Luna's opening remarks, the committee began asking questions of Luna and the department's deputy attorney general, Julie Weaver.
About 8:50 a.m., the committee began hearing public testimony, which was not taken in the Senate. A House State Affairs subcommittee that reviewed the rules recommended a full public hearing. Among those testifying in opposition to the rules were former Boise City Councilwoman Anne Hausrath, Gene Bray of Meridian and two representatives from the ACLU.
Said House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, "What the Senate does is up to the Senate. What we do is totally independent of them. If we do not reject part of these, all the rules will go into effect despite what the Senate has done."
The rules also are subject to a legal challenge, with a federal court hearing set for next month.
Luna says rules governing the Capitol interior have yet to be drafted.
The Capitol interior has several different masters," Luna said in an email. "Admin controls portions of the common space, LSO and the Legislature control large portions of the building and Constitutional officers also control large portions of the building. We need to get all of those groups around the table to decide what those rules would look like."
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