New rules change how organizations get access to protest at the Capitol

Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 7:32 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - New rules changed the process for groups reserving space to protest at the Capitol, by requiring a state agency sponsor for approval.

The rule went into effect on March 1 by the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS). This applies to any space in the Capitol Complex that can be reserved for public use.

If an organization wants to reserve space, the request must, now, come from a state agency sponsor. The rule also requires the event to be “consistent with the Agency’s official purposes.”

The League of Women Voters said they tried reserving space at the Capitol for their annual rally, but were told the event would be subject to the new rule, since it took place after March 1. The League said they had to switch the event from a rally to a news conference to work around the rule. “I was very disappointed,” said Tallahassee League of Women Voters chapter president Trish Neely.

WCTV obtained emails between DMS and the League, in which DMS cited the following reasoning for the new rule: “The amended Rule will help streamline both the application and review processes while ensuring the continued preservation of the Capitol Complex and other Florida Facility Pool buildings.”

Neely said the rule also raises concerns on the restriction of free speech. “It’s not just the organization that suffers,” said Neely. “It’s most of the community that suffers.”

WCTV reached out to DMS to get more clarity on the rule, but did not receive a response.