A scope statement approved by Gov. Scott Walker furthers the process to fast track emergency rules that will take action against Capitol protestors.
Department of Administration spokesperson Stephanie Marquis said DOA submitted a scope statement on the drafting of emergency rules to the Legislative Reference Bureau in an email to The Badger Herald. Emergency rules will not be issued, she added, until after the statement is published April 1.
Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said Walker approved the scope statement Friday. She added DOA staff should have the emergency rules drafted at any time.
The emergency rules will “codify” a policy that has in place for several years and update the rule to conform with recent court rulings, Marquis said. DOA does not anticipate these rule changes will have any new impact on those who follow the permit process, she added.
Taylor said emergency rules are defined as being appropriate only if the preservation of public peace, health, safety or welfare necessities bypass normal rule-making process. She said she is not sure how DOA could possibly justify the need for emergency rules in this instance.
The fact is, Taylor said, there have not been any major incidents that would give way to public safety issues.
Taylor said the rules probably do not specifically target the Solidarity Singers, a group of protesters that sings daily in the rotunda at noon, but she said they are certainly one of the big targets.
“This is a total ploy to continue to cite people to get them to shut up in the Capitol,” Taylor said.
The bottom line, Taylor said, is they are trying to crack down on “legitimate expressive speech.” She said the Walker administration has issued more than 100 citations to people singing or carrying a sign and not one has been successfully prosecuted, as most cases are dismissed.
There is no “emergency” requiring these rules, Marquis said. Classifying these rules as an emergency ensures they are adopted sooner, she added, because, by the time rules go through the full legislative process, the administrative rule process takes approximately one year.
Marquis said she heard the rumor that the DOA is “changing the rules because they are unconstitutional.” She said the permit process is constitutional and added the new rules simply update Wisconsin’s Administrative Code, which has been in place since 1979 to protect the safety of the Capitol and the public.
American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Larry Dupuis said ACLU filed a lawsuit against DOA and the Capitol Police Department over their enforcement of the permit rules as they currently stand. He said the ACLU claims the permit rules unconstitutionally violate the First Amendment.
“The timing suggests that it’s in response to all the failures that they’ve had in prosecuting cases who have been protesting without a permit,” Dupuis said. “That seems to be the main motivation.”
Dupuis said what is really driving the need for emergency rules is not an emergency; rather, it is just the DOA’s frustration with not being able to effectively prosecute people. He said DOA is trying to circumvent the normal process without a true emergency to justify its actions.