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House panel votes for full public hearing on Capitol grounds use rules

The House State Affairs subcommittee on rules of the state Department of Administration, chaired by Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, took public testimony this morning on the proposed new rules for use of the Capitol grounds, and then voted to refer the rules to the full House State Affairs Committee for a hearing with public testimony, “with respect to the chilling effect of the First Amendment,” in Barbieri’s words. Monica Hopkins, attorney with the Idaho ACLU, told the lawmakers that the rules “violate the right of everyday Idahoans to peaceably assemble,” and also violate the First Amendment. Several other members of the public also spoke out against the rules, including former Boise City Councilwoman Anne Hausrath.

“Everyone who visits our state Capitol is affected by these rules,” Hausrath said, urging a full public hearing before any enactment.  “Certainly we have rights under the U.S. Constitution. We also have extended rights under the Idaho Constitution, basically to consult for the common good and to instruct our representatives.” Others expressed concerns that the rules would be confusing for citizens to know what they can do or say where and when, and that they limit basic rights to do things like turn out at the Capitol for a candlelight vigil to mourn a tragedy.

Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, moved to refer the rules to the full committee for a public hearing, and Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, spoke in favor of the motion. “I’m comfortable with these rules, but there is a lot of concern that constitutional rights are being stepped on,” he said. “And I don’t think that, whether these rules are acceptable or not acceptable, we ought to take the approach to fast-forward them and prohibit the public from being engaged and involved. So I think it’s a good idea to have a hearing on these so people can express their concerns.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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