People who display signs, take pictures or even read books in the public gallery of the State Assembly would be asked to leave and could be banned under new rules adopted yesterday by majority Republicans. Republicans say the rules are an effort to restore decorum to the Assembly, where last session some protesters would occasionally shout at lawmakers.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos described them as "progressive discipline."
"[If] someone decides to speak out or unfurl a banner or try to make a spectacle of themselves, they're going to be escorted out of the chambers for a day," he says. "Because perhaps they didn't understand the rules. If they try to do it a second time, they're going to lose the right to be an observer for that floor period. It they do it a third time, clearly breaking the rules and not caring about this institution or everyone else's freedom of speech, they won't be allowed to be a part of the gallery for the entire session."
But the rules cover more than just outbursts or protest signs. People are banned from bringing bags into the gallery and from wearing hats. Using cameras, laptops or smartphones is banned as is reading a book or a newspaper. Racine Democrat Cory Mason told Republicans they were picking and choosing from the Bill of Rights, noting that visitors to the gallery would still be allowed to carry concealed handguns.
"The absurdity of what's being proposed here today in these rules befuddles me to say the very least," he says. "We're going to say that kids with books or vets with hats, no. But if you want to bring your gun in that's just fine."
Also included in the rule passed by Republicans is a dress code for everyone on the Assembly floor. Men will have to wear a coat and tie. Women will have to wear, quote, "appropriate attire." The rule also allows lawmakers on the Assembly Organization Committee to vote by paper ballot without personally attending a meeting. It passed on a party-line vote.