- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The State Building Commission has approved a temporary policy that will allow fewer opportunities for the public to lobby state lawmakers over the next three years because of the renovation work at the Capitol building.

After weeks of fine-tuning, the State Building Commission on Wednesday approved the policy that outlines when and where the public can protest or hold other public demonstrations at the Jonah Business Center in Cheyenne. The large office building will host the next three legislative sessions while the Capitol undergoes a major renovation.

The facility-use policy largely restricts public gatherings of more than 10 people to a double-sidewalk area alongside the building outside or a mid-sized meeting room near the building’s atrium - as long as legislative committees aren’t using the space.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports (https://bit.ly/1VQpURV ) that Gov. Matt Mead and other state leaders on the commission acknowledged the policy creates a less-than-ideal situation for the public.

But they said it was the best they could do to uphold the public’s First Amendment rights while also taking into account this is a private building with other tenants and limited space.

“Nobody is trying to not include all the opportunities for the public, and no one is trying to suppress the activities of the Legislature,” Mead said. “But we do have to recognize that we will not satisfy any interests if we don’t have something available to say here are the rules.”

The policy applies to the state’s permitting process for gatherings of 10 people or more. Smaller events do not require a permit and are allowed as long as they don’t affect pedestrian traffic or create other disruptions.

State Attorney General Peter Michael said he believes the policy can withstand constitutional scrutiny. But he said there will be opportunities to revisit the policy if issues come up during the session.

“The policy, I think, is solid and flexible to handle most things,” Michael said. “And if it’s not, we can come back in simple fashion, adjust the policy in a content-neutral way and go about our business.”


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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