By: Matt Horn
September 25, 2013
Earlier this summer the Dream Defenders camped out in the state capitol 24/7 for 31 days. Overtime cost Florida taxpayers more than 172,000 dollars. Now the state is changing the rules to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“When the Capitol is closed we will not allow people in to sleep, to protest, things of that nature,” said Gerald Bailey, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner.
FDLE is recommending rules aimed at keeping people out of the Capitol after business hours.
If this does become the new rule, the Capitol doors will be locked after hours. Meaning that you will be escorted out of the building of possibly arrested.
The Dream Defenders are back in Tallahassee this week. Even though they aren’t staying in the Capitol this time around they say the recommended changes will silence people’s voices.
“The right to peacefully assemble, engage your lawmakers in a public building, public figure, public figures is not being infringed on,” said Phillip Agnew, Dream Defenders Executive Director. “It’s a core tenant of our constitution of Florida and our country. Seems more political than safety.”
The state says it’s all about safety. FDLE is currently waiting on Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford. The three must approve the rule in writing for the changes to take place.
“They are in the process now of going over the FDLE recommendation and I hope we hear from them soon,” said Bailey.
The new rules would also prohibit groups from preparing food without a permit.
Those authorized in the capitol will still be allowed access to the building after hours, but a maximum of four guests will only be permitted with the authorized person.
Press Release: The News Service of Florida
By BRANDON LARRABEE
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
Posting or forwarding this material without permission is prohibited. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, September 20, 2013..........State police plan to limit after-hours access to the Capitol in an effort to avoid a repeat of the month-long occupation of Gov. Rick Scott's office over the summer by protesters pushing for changes to Florida's self-defense laws.
Under the proposal by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, members of the public would be expected to leave the Capitol building by 5 p.m. each weekday or within 30 minutes of the end of public meetings. Capitol police could arrest for trespassing anyone who didn't leave when they were told.
No one could stay overnight or prepare food in publicly accessible parts of the Capitol. There would also be additional restrictions on those who have cards allowing them to access the building and how many people could accompany them.
"The suggested changes are directed at enabling Capitol Police to better secure the Capitol building complex property, safeguard those who work and visit within the Capitol and ensure security services are provided in the most efficient manner," according to a document outlining the changes.
FDLE released a summary of the proposal to the Tallahassee Democrat after the paper sent in an open-records request. The News Service of Florida requested the document after the Democrat reported on it.
The agency says the full plan is shielded under the state's open-records law, but it released the outline "in the spirit of honoring the request." The proposal would still have to be approved by Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. The state fire marshal is also supposed to be consulted.
"At this juncture we have just begun submitting areas of recommended changes to these parties which will be subject to discussions and modifications prior to final decisions being reached in the near future," the FDLE outline says.
Neither Weatherford nor Gaetz has seen the plan yet, according to their offices. A spokeswoman for Scott referred questions to FDLE.
The plan comes after a group known as the Dream Defenders staged a 31-day sit-in at the Capitol following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The Dream Defenders demanded changes to state laws on self defense, school discipline and racial profiling.
Rep. Alan Williams, a Tallahassee Democrat who worked with the group, said he understood the need to secure the Capitol but didn't think a "Dream Defender rule" was necessary. Williams said it was also important to make sure Floridians could be heard by state officials.
"I would hope that we ensure that our citizens of the state of Florida continue to have that opportunity before this rule is implemented," he said.