The state Department of Administration announced an agreement with civil rights advocates Tuesday meant to resolve a dispute over groups protesting at the Capitol.

As part of the settlement, groups of 12 or fewer would be allowed to gather at the Capitol without state review. Larger groups would be required to seek a permit or use a new advance reservation system that doesn’t require a permit.

The new rules would free larger gatherings, such as the ongoing noontime protest against Gov. Scott Walker known as the Solidarity Singalong, from assuming liability for the actions of its participants. Rather than filling out a permit-request form, such groups can make a reservation in person, by phone or by email on a first-come, first-served basis starting immediately.

The settlement stipulates that the state can manage state buildings and have a permitting process under state law.

The state also must pay $88,270 in lawyer’s fees to the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of Michael Kissick, an assistant professor at the UW-Madison medical school.

“The permit process has been repeatedly upheld as constitutional by the courts and today’s settlement demonstrates ACLU’s agreement with the process as well,” DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch said in a statement. “We have taken reasonable steps to ensure all visitors and citizens can enjoy our beautiful Capitol building, and I’m hopeful we can all move forward together.”

ACLU lawyer Larry Dupuis said the settlement should resolve the ongoing friction that between July 24 and Sept. 6 led to near-daily mass arrests and 350 citations issued to 211 singalong participants.

“We’re really pleased with this informal notice requirement that should solve a problem that has been ongoing,” he said of the reservation system.

The singers have argued that the First Amendment and the Wisconsin Constitution allow them to protest without a permit — even though the U.S. Supreme Court previously has ruled that governments can regulate the time, place and manner of demonstrations.

The loosely affiliated group of singers, who say they have no structure or organization, additionally argued the state’s permitting process is problematic because protest participants must assume liability for individuals over whom they have no control.

Dupuis acknowledged “there was no real threat” that Singalong participants would be responsible for the behavior of others. But he said the settlement “takes away that fear.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Tuesday he hadn’t read the settlement, but he said he hopes it adheres to the principle that “people have a right to visit the Capitol, but you don’t have the right to take it over every day.”

“The whole point of what we want is just to be orderly,” Vos said. “And we think that every citizen should have the right to visit the Capitol in a way that doesn’t infringe on others’ ability to do the same thing.”

The current Capitol access policy was put in place in response to the tens of thousands of protesters who occupied the Capitol in 2011 after Walker proposed curbing public employee collective bargaining. It requires a permit for groups of four or more.

Last year Capitol Police, under the direction of Chief David Erwin, began issuing tickets to protesters who continued to regularly sing at the Capitol. That led the ACLU to file a federal lawsuit on behalf of Kissick, who participated in the singalong until police started issuing citations.

In his July 9 preliminary ruling, U.S. District Judge William Conley said the state can’t regulate groups of 20 or fewer but left in place rules for larger groups.

After Conley’s ruling, Capitol Police began making arrests in the rotunda, though they haven’t made any since Sept. 6. A DOA spokeswoman declined to explain why the arrests stopped, saying the department doesn’t comment on police procedures.

Those cases will continue to be prosecuted, said Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice. “We believe that the ACLU’s acknowledgements support the view we’ve taken all along, which is that a permit requirement is constitutional,” Brueck said.

Under the settlement, DOA must create a new policy for groups to use the Capitol, including the new reservation system. A Walker spokesman said Tuesday the governor already has approved an outline of the new rules, which include other changes, such as setting an acceptable decibel level for state buildings.

The reservation must be made at least two business days and no more than 10 business days before the event. The requester must provide details of the event including date, start and finish time, estimated number of attendees and contact information for one or more people in the group.

The DOA would not have to grant approval, but it would be able to make arrests if groups don’t follow the procedure or adhere to other building policies. For example, groups wanting to use sound equipment still would need to apply for a permit.

Groups could reserve the rotunda for up to five days, after which the group must renew its reservation. Permitted events or Capitol tours would have priority over a group that simply makes a reservation.

On Tuesday the singalong was held outside because of a scheduled event in the rotunda at noon. Participants expressed a mix of relief, skepticism and disapproval of the ACLU for what some said was a retreat from an absolute First Amendment defense.

“That was a poison pill that (some of the singers) won’t be willing to swallow,” Patricia Hammel, a lawyer representing several singers who received tickets, said of the compromise. “Overall it’s a huge improvement over what they’ve got now.”

Kissick said the settlement clarifies what he’s allowed to do under the law while protecting his constitutional right to petition the government.

“It’s not everything we wanted,” Kissick said. “But we gave ground and they gave ground. So I’m pretty happy about it.”

Jim Murray, another lawyer representing singers, called the agreement “silly.”

“This dopey requirement to have people phone in the obvious is a waste,” Murray said. “I don’t respect it as a good use of state resources to set this system up.”

— State Journal reporter

Mary Spicuzza contributed

to this report.

Matthew DeFour covers state government for the Wisconsin State Journal.

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(65) comments

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

When calculating winners and losers, lets consider state Democratic politicians.

Anyone remember seeing any elected Dems getting arrested? Or even protesting?
Few of them seemed to publicly support the Singers, much less their anti-permit stance.
Anyone read or hear one of them saying positive things about the role the Singers played?

No apparent winners there.

And one Dem "leader," Senator Chris Larson, even publicly suggested they get a permit.

He's definitely a loser.

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

Speaking of losers, anybody seen Walker's 8 proposals to aid job training and employment? They seem to have disappeared into the legislature without a ripple.

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/walker-vos-fitzgerald-propose-economic-development-package/article_6347fd4a-bec2-5143-8986-521b3f027213.html

milton's fried man
milton's fried man

Chris Taylor was there . As I recall the cops also threatened at least one state senator with arrest

milton's fried man
milton's fried man

But yes, Chris Larson and his ilk are the reason wis deems lose elections.

AllAmerican11B
AllAmerican11B

FINALLY an agreement!

Question is; will the "players" abide by the agreement or not?

Lynne4300
Lynne4300

Haha, that didn't last long.

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=41109

AllAmerican11B
AllAmerican11B

Lynne4300,
What the heck are you talking about? That article is talking about a terminology "squabble" after the fact which does not imply, in any way, that either side is NOT abiding by the agreement?

Lynne4300
Lynne4300

Trying to change the agreement, by playing with the terminology, is a well known tactic of the left.

AllAmerican11B
AllAmerican11B

Lynne4300 (below),
"Trying to change the agreement, by playing with the terminology..."

At least you had a reply. Now I'll give you an chance to support your argument; please quote the spot in the article that says anything along the lines of they are "Trying to change the agreement..."; I simply cannot find it.

The "squabble" I referred to is about whether the agreement implies that what the Capital is doing is constitutional or not. I'll say this; If "I" thought it was unconstitutional they would never get me to agree to it! I think this agreement was a "save face" agreement for both sides - they BOTH had to give and take a bit - it's called compromise; however you never compromise when you can prove that something is unconstitutional.

Fartinthewind
Fartinthewind

Some have tried to color this as the kind of compromise that can happen when two opposing parties sit at a table and hammer out a consensus. Nonsense. This is what happens when two opposing parties get slapped up side the head by the adults in the room. That's right. Both sets of wing nuts, left and right, took one upside the head on this one. So who are the big winners and and the big losers on this one?

I think it fair to say that the solidarity singers are far left spectrum wing nuts. They aren't elected to represent anyone. They were foolish to think they could avoid any and all restrictions on their demonstrations. Where they came out ahead in the deal is they proved a point. Thin skinned elected officials and their administrative minions cannot place undue restrictions on the people's right to seek a redress of grievances.

On the other hand, Walker was elected to represent the people of Wisconsin. It was his administrative minions who went out of their way to erect barriers that were intentionally designed to stifle the right of the people to seek a redress of grievances. The Walker administration didn't just decide to compromise. They agreed to pay legal costs. Walker and his administrative minions overstepped their legal authority and they got called on the carpet for it. They are big losers in this.

Who supported the efforts of Walker and his minions? People who call themselves Tea Party Constitutionalists. These tea party constitutionalists argued the government could regulate those seeking a redress of grievances the same way the government regulates family gatherings at a picnic shelter in a public park. These phony constitutionalists, like David Blaska, got the biggest smack down of all. It's just one more nail in their coffin of irrelevance.

The two big winners in all this? The ACLU who stood for not only the constitution, but reason (ouch that's gotta hurt conservatives). We the people.

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

so no limits on those seeking redress of grievances? Is that your position? There are hundreds of lobbyists lining up to sign onto that petition by the way.

Comment deleted.
PapaLorax
PapaLorax

did I read this wrong:

It was his administrative minions who went out of their way to erect barriers that were intentionally designed to stifle the right of the people to seek a redress of grievances.

Comment deleted.
PapaLorax
PapaLorax

oh please FITW - it is clear you accept the notion that the singers were seeking redress...therefore I asked you a fairly direct question whether you believe those seeking redress should be free to do so in any time, manner, and place of their choosing?

Norwood44
Norwood44

Fart. Well said.

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

Fart, you've written an interesting and insightful analysis, much of which I agree with.
However, you lost me when you wrote: "Both sets of wing nuts, left and right, took one upside the head on this one." How exactly did the Singers 'take one'?

You also lost me when you labeled the Singers "wing nuts" -- a term that historically has been applied to extreme right wing groups. Merriam-Webster define a wing nut as "a mentally deranged person" or "one who advocates extreme measures or changes."
Calling the Singers "wing nuts" creates a false equivalency (Singers are like Tea Party).

Worse, it is a demeaning slur against people who have demonstrated courage and perseverance in the face of ongoing persecution and prosecution by the Walker Administration, as well as ridicule and worse by right wing media and RW front groups.

You also say of the Singers that "They aren't elected to represent anyone". Is that supposed to disqualify them in some way? Are you suggesting that only elected officials are somehow qualified to stand up for our rights or protest injustices?

Lets remember that the ACLU (which I join you in praising) was representing a protester who had been intimidated from singing. So, no Singers, no protester, no ACLU win.

It was the Singers that made it possible for the ACLU to win, and for Walker to lose.

Fartinthewind
Fartinthewind

Just because the solidarity singers have the courage of their convictions does not in and of itself mean that the solidarity singers are not divorced from political reality.

I am not speaking about their cause. That's a separate issue. The solidarity singers and their supporters who believed that NO restrictions could be placed on their right to seek a redress of grievances through singing at the capitol were just plain wrong. Walker's minions and the tea party constitutionalists who thought the singers could be regulated like gatherings at a picnic shelter in a public park were just as wrong. I see an equivalency of faulty reasoning not a moral equivalency. Since Walker is elected and the singers are not, I find the actions of Walker's minions morally reprehensible while I am simply annoyed by the actions of the singers.

Did the solidarity singers notch a win for free speech? Yes. Did they notch a win for their broader cause? Not yet. Furthermore, I doubt their tactics will accomplish that broader goal. Does it keep those issues front and center? Yes, but think about it. If Walker and his minions had just ignored the singers it would be like a tree falling in the forest.

I'm not going to hold the singers up as some kind of "political role models." That kind of spin is counterproductive.

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

If recent polling data is correct, the Singers had the support of slightly over 50% of the electorate. That's better than Walker. If the Singers have been so divorced from political reality, then how come they got more support than the Governor?

And where did you get the idea that the Singers support NO restrictions?

Did they peacefully leave the building when other groups had permits? Yes.
Did they physically invade the office spaces of legislators? No.
Did they restrict their protests to specific days and times? Yes.
Despite provocations, were they ever violent? No.

Those may be self-imposed restrictions, but they abided by them.

If you want to talk about counterproductive, Senator Chris Larson (D) publicly saying the Singers should get permits was that, and more.

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

there was a state wide poll on the singers? link please

BDWIRunner
BDWIRunner

Before anyone on either side of this gets too worked up, don't forget that last week the DOA had specialists in the Capitol taking decibel levels. The article quoted the DOA mentioning in passing that noise levels might be cause for disbanding a protest. Let's see what the new policy has to say about decibel levels when they are released.

witness2012
witness2012

With all the high school bands and orchestras that perform in the capitol, it would be difficult to enforce a decibel limit that would punish the solidarity singers and not also force the long tradition of orchestras and choirs out of the capitol.

Since any policy must be content-neutral, this tactic would be difficult to sustain.

wouldn't those be special events that would have a permit?

This is a good idea. Why? Because everyone else have rights too. We should be able to visit and enjoy the capitol Without being subjected to excessive noise from others who are their with a personal agenda.

AllAmerican11B
AllAmerican11B

middleoftheroad,
Noise, is your problem, in politics, REALLY??? Noise is NOT the issue here and you know it; using noise as an argument is nonsense!!

WI_Expat
WI_Expat

Still need a permit for groups to gather...sounds like the Solidarity Singers just lost an advocate

denbar1948
denbar1948

Please reread the article.

"The new rules would free larger gatherings, such as the ongoing noontime protest against Gov. Scott Walker known as the Solidarity Singalong, from assuming liability for the actions of its participants. Rather than filling out a permit-request form, such groups can make a reservation in person, by phone or by email on a first-come, first-served basis starting immediately."

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

so they need to do something to get the space...that's his point.

one permit was completed during the arrests that did just that and was granted...basically removing the argument completely about the onerous requirements. A permit request was never denied, showing the idea of "permission" was always ridiculous.

ArchieBunkersKidBrother
ArchieBunkersKidBrother

Walker is costing the state money every day he sits in that chair, wherever it is.

ArchieBunkersKidBrother
ArchieBunkersKidBrother

You don't pay your adversary's legal fees unless you LOSE, isn't that right Scooter?

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

you pay to make it stop - probably would have cost them more to fight it.

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

Walker settled now because wiser people finally convinced him he was likely to lose in Federal court if it went to trial, and that a settlement would allow him to get something in the settlement he could point to in order to save some face.

Better to take the hit as far in advance of next year's re-election campaign as possible, rather than have one of his policies ruled unconstitutional during it.

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

why would federal court have a problem with a process that is more open then 26 other state capitol buildings and the national capitol?

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

Popa'ax, why did Walker's DOA settle now rather than hang in for a win in court?

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

Mr Mellow - why settle? I can think of two reasons - 1) Cheaper then fighting it. 2) They were satisfied that the compromise protected their intent.

The permit process was never going to lose in court - at best they were going to get the same thing from court (remove the liability clause and other minor information).

Observer5
Observer5

And Scoooter wipes more egg off his face

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

so the DOA sits down and comes to a compromise...that is now egg on the face?

I guess in the mind of the Dems who haven't negotiated or come to a table on Anything since BO took office.

MadisonCitizen
MadisonCitizen

I find this a reasonable compromise and hope we can move on from this issue with whatever remains of our dignity as a state.

I believe that Walker's administration gave substantial ground and the ACLU resolved most of the stated issues of the singers and protestors. I hope that singers respect the agreement, because if you are to the Left of the ACLU, you are pretty far out there!

ArchieBunkersKidBrother
ArchieBunkersKidBrother

Not really a compromise. Walker was spanked.

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

one side staked out that any requirements were a violation of the first amendment...the requirements remain in reduced form.

Wis_taxpayer
Wis_taxpayer

And you wonder why Van Hollen isn't running again!

Wis_taxpayer
Wis_taxpayer

Yet another loss and embarrassment for Walker and the Republicans.

Gov. Scott Walker's administration is dropping its requirement that protesters in the state Capitol receive a permit to hold demonstrations.

The Walker administration faced a lawsuit in federal court brought by a protester and the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin over the permitting requirement that was headed to trial in January.

Under the agreement, the state Department of Administration will keep its permitting rules in places but still allow at least five days of demonstrations if protesters simply give the state two days' notice.

"This is a victory because giving notice is significantly different from forcing people to ask the government for permission to exercise free speech," said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. "Giving notice is very informal.

The state can't deny use of the Capitol to anyone giving notice, unless someone else has reserved the entire space by obtaining a permit for the same time."

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

a group of 12 still can't show up and protest - it is you are is getting hung up on terminology.

geo_
geo_

Once again the idiocy of the uneducated Walker has cost the taxpayers money. This kid has no understanding whatsoever of what America means. Take a look at what his unamerican seat-of-the-pants rulings cost Milwaukee County.

apparently it is you who don't understand. You and/or the singers do not have more rights than me.

happydays
happydays

what a frickin waste of money-

Norby
Norby

By definition, if it requires a permit it is not a "right". Is free speech in the Capitol a right? The ACLU sold it's soul far too cheaply on this one! In any event it does not represent the singers who show up. If as they say they have no leader, than they have no reason to accept the "compromise'.

Not true at all. We have piles of rights that you still need to get permits or sign up for. Even voting requires you to prove your address, age, and citizenship.

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

you as open on the 2nd amendment as you are on the first?

LiLa
LiLa

"But we gave ground and they gave ground."

Congress could learn a lesson from this.

Norwood44
Norwood44

Every time this picture runs the unions lose supporters.

Frank Rojas
Frank Rojas

This. Yikes.

Comment deleted.
ArchieBunkersKidBrother
ArchieBunkersKidBrother

His name is Plaintiff, FYI.

RichardSRussell
RichardSRussell

Norwood, did Santa not bring you every present you wanted as a kid?
And did your parents blame it on the elves' union?

Norwood44
Norwood44

Richard. Voters aren't Santa Claus and state workers aren't children. In the midst of the worst economy in a century all we have heard about is a very small percent of the state's population. We should be more concerned about the 5.6 million other people than a group that works for the government and has gamed the system for too long. This picture says, " I WANT YOUR MONEY. I WANT SECURITY. I AM A VICTIM." He has enough of our money. He has enough security. He isn't a victim.

just the opposite. We have been the victims subject to their entitled attitiude

I've got a good idea. How about they just stop the nonsensical daily display of lunacy that accomplishes Nothing? End of problem.

That is because what they are doing is ridiculous so showing it just puts the shame and idiocricy on display

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

How does someone who took the stance that no permit can be required accept this?

I can't wait for all the people to thank the DOA for listening and coming to an acceptable agreement...

witness2012
witness2012

PL, no permit is required and no permission is required by the DOA. Giving notice and not assuming liability or having a permit denied because of the many and myriad reasons that the DOA mentioned in their pre-application process is a clear win for the protesters and a clear loss for the DOA.

If the DOA needs notice as a face-saving gesture, let them spin it as a win any way they like. The real "win" is the ability for those who are expressing dissent with current administration policies to be able to do it without fear of arrest in the capitol rotunda.

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

Not sure how you come to that conclusion - the singers are not free to just show up and protest without doing something first...otherwise they still face arrest. You can call it whatever you want, but that is the fact.

Mr Mellow
Mr Mellow

The Singers have been announcing that they would be singing M-F every week. How is this different than what is required by the settlement?

Somebody is grasping for straws.

On a lighter note, Walker's humiliating defeat was fore-ordained from the moment he was desperate enough to OK Dave Blaska's Twinkie singalong debacle. ;>)

PapaLorax
PapaLorax

the settlement acknowledges that they are not free to show up and sing without notice...it just reduced the requirements for notification.

Norby
Norby

Easy. I do not!!

Charlie13
Charlie13

Love that Pic. Looks like Lawrence Talbot under a full moon.

array1
array1

"The state also must pay $88,000 in lawyer's fees."

Well that's what you get for passing unconstitutional laws I suppose.

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