All Capitol doors to open June 27 - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

All Capitol doors to open June 27

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Department of Administration says all eight ground floor entrances to the state Capitol will open Monday, June 27.

DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch says at that time, metal screening will be discontinued.

The change in building access and security policy come as a result of the settlement of a lawsuit over building policies.

The lawsuit was filed months ago by labor unions,  as thousands of demonstrators to Governor Walker's proposed collective bargaining limits were forced to stand in long lines to enter the building,  and faced other restrictions.   Administration officials said security and access steps were necessary to ensure safety.

Attorney Peg Lautenschlager,  the state's former attorney general,  represented unions in the case.   Lautenschlager says the relaxation of security practices should have taken place back in March to facilitate more expression by citizens,  but says the settlement establishes a standard for building access,  and makes legal remedies more accessible,  for anyone who would complain about building restrictions in the future.

Here's a statement from Secretary Huebsch:

The change in building security was agreed upon this week after a day-long mediation with the Wisconsin State Employees Union (WSEU) and other plaintiffs, who filed a lawsuit over entry procedures at the Capitol in March.  Under the agreement, DOA retains its authority under the Wisconsin Administrative Code to adjust security and change practices and procedures in the building as circumstances require.  The lawsuit and subsequent contempt motion will be dismissed. 

 

"I am pleased that we were able to find common ground with WSEU and open additional Capitol entrances to the public without limiting DOA's statutory authority to manage the building and take the steps necessary to keep visitors and employees safe," Secretary Huebsch said.  "With the Legislature set to complete its work on the state budget in the coming days, I am confident that this is the right time to open the four remaining entrances and ease security procedures.  Our plan was to return to eight entrances while remaining vigilant in our mission to ensure public safety and this agreement allows DOA and the Capitol Police to do that."

   

After reviewing safety needs, staffing requirements and costs, DOA increased the number of public entrances from two to four on the ground floor of the Capitol earlier this week, with the goal of eventually returning to eight entrances.  The Capitol had been operating with two public entrances since sustained demonstrations began in February.   

 

The agreement between DOA and WSEU also provides that only employees can remain in the Capitol building after it closes and that anyone violating this policy can be removed, which is consistent with the Wisconsin Administrative Code.  A March court order by Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Albert required DOA to remove anyone attempting to spend the night in the Capitol.

 

"The refusal of hundreds of people to leave the Capitol each night when it closed in February and March hindered our ability to manage the building and ensure the health and safety of visitors and employees," Huebsch added.  "I appreciate the recognition by WSEU that this situation should not occur again." 

 

The agreement between DOA and WSEU also designates the ground and first floor Rotunda as public assembly areas, allowing rallies and demonstrations to continue inside the building while also ensuring that the Capitol is able to function as an office building where hundreds of employees carry out the state's business daily. Under the agreement, DOA will continue allowing signs that are not on sticks on the ground and first floor Rotunda areas.  DOA retains the ability to require permits for those areas of the Capitol. 

 

The agreement provides that the WSEU lawsuit is dismissed on its merits and with prejudice, without costs to either party.  Mediator Judge Gordon Myse presented the agreement to Judge Albert today for his signature.

 

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Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) issued the following statement regarding resolution to

Capitol Access:

 

"I am pleased that the two sides could come together to reach an agreement to open the State Capitol. Lifting these unnecessary barriers to entry will help return the Capitol to its rightful owners—the people of Wisconsin."

 

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