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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘We care about the work you do here, we want to be involved’

At this morning’s hearing on proposed new Capitol grounds use rules, former Boise City Councilwoman Anne Hausrath told the House State Affairs Committee, “I have a great deal of respect for the work that you do here. … We Idahoans really care about government, we care about the work that you do here. We think it matters. We want to be involved. … Please do not try to stifle all voices with these clumsily written rules.”

Hausrath said, “I’m a bit confused about the videos that you were shown, because my understanding is that the rules actually don’t deal with the interior of the Capitol, and they also don’t deal with firearms.” She said, “These rules were written in haste. … They appear to target the very freedoms guarded by the U.S and the Idaho constitutions. If approved, these rules would restrict all voices, not just the voices of Occupy Boise last spring, but the voices of all of Idaho.”

Barbara Kemp told the lawmakers, “I literally tremble for the future of the state of Idaho if these rules go forward. … They’re an answer in great and confusing detail, I think, for the wrong question. … They answer the question, ‘How can we micromanage citizens’ behavior with a list of ‘don’ts’ that is exhaustive, confusing and even insulting enough to ensure that those wishing to engage their representatives can never again, or will never again, take the trouble to engage their representatives in an effective way?'”

Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, told the committee, “On behalf of our over 1,400 members, I’m here to express our concerns and opposition.” She said, “The ACLU opposes these rules because they are an extreme and unnecessary approach to regulating Idahoans’ individual freedoms. As Rep. Gannon pointed out, the problem in these rules is they create confusion and a chilling effect on free speech, mainly in some of the definitions, as pointed out by Rep. Luker. The rules define an ‘event’ as a gathering of two or more people.”

She added, “’Graphic display,’ listed under the types of exhibits, have caused confusion that we’ve heard about in our office as well. The 1stAmendment has always protected symbolic speech, including graphic displays of buttons, T-shirts, red ribbons or knitted hats. This type of restriction … goes beyond what the courts have allowed.”

Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, has stepped out and left Vice Chair Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, to preside over much of the hearing.

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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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