Hearing on Capitol access to resume - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Hearing on Capitol access to resume

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By Lysée Mitri - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) – The Department of Administration Secretary Michael Huebsch said in court on Wednesday he wants to let more people in the Capitol, but the building is not going to be treated like a "hotel."

Testifying at the Dane County Courthouse on the Capitol access case, he said DOA needs assurance that the public will respect the operating hours and not try to sleep at the Capitol when it closes before loosening up restrictions.

During cross examination, the attorney for the union groups was interrupted when she said the Capitol was supposed to open at 8 a.m. on Monday.

"It did," Huebsch said.

"It did?" said Peggy Lautenschlager

Despite the restrictions on access, DOA says the Capitol is open. The plaintiffs, however, do not think it's enough.

Rep. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) says restrictions have forced her staff to spend hours fielding calls with constituents to meet with them inside the Capitol.

"The restrictions that have resulted from the continued protests certainly have impaired my ability to do my job," Roys said.

Even lawmakers say they had trouble getting into the Capitol.

"I tried the East Washington entrance where I typically use the key. It was disabled," said Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine). "Then I tried another entrance and another entrance where the media was allowed in. I was told because I was not a member of the media I would not be allowed to enter there."

Mason says it was a challenge just to get his intern access in the Capitol.

"It feels a little like middle school, trying to get a bathroom pass," Mason said.

But Huebsch says, leading up to the Capitol restrictions, he got hundreds of complaints urging him to regain control of the building.

"We are not equipped at the State Capitol, nor with any state office building, to be a hotel," he said.

Huebsch described the scene in the Capitol, saying many signs posted at the inside were hostile and some could easily be concerned for their safety with the size of the rallying crowds.

"The crowds were so large, the noise really so loud, that the ability for constituents or the desire for constituents to want to come into the building for something unrelated to the protest was simply going to be prohibitive," he said. 

The court got through all the plaintiff's witnesses. There are still about five witnesses to speak on behalf of the state of Wisconsin.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Albert said the hearing will continue on Thursday at 1 p.m.

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