There is one thing about living with a lawyer that never fails to amuse me. When I described to her yesterday how, despite a temporary restraining order prohibiting Wisconsin’s Department of Administration from closing the state Capitol building to the public, the department has continued to do just that, using state police to bar access to almost all citizens, her head snapped around, her eyebrows shot up, and her mouth popped open. It was her trademark look of incredulousness that overcomes her whenever there is a blatant disregard for the law by people or institutions who should know better.
Yesterday a Dane County judge ordered the state to reopen the Capitol to the public after some demonstrators were denied access to the building beginning late Sunday and quite a few spent the night outside on the grounds in the cold. The Walker administration claimed it was already in compliance with the judge’s order, but large numbers of people were denied entry late yesterday as a joint session of the Legislature was convening to hear the governor give his budget address.
While members of the general public were kept outside, a group of Walker’s supporters were reportedly brought into the building through an underground tunnel and seated in the gallery above the Assembly chamber to hear the governor’s remarks.
Since the news media professionals seemed to hopelessly consumed by 2012 presidential election gossip and innuendo, the blogosphere will have to give you a bird’s eye view of what is going on this week in Wisconsin.
But today when I went to the capitol to visit my representative, Janis Ringhand, and discuss my concerns about the governor’s proposed budget and its effects on natural resources, I was treated like a common criminal. Instead of walking freely through the capitol building, I was subjected to the myriad humiliations of a woman visiting her husband in federal prison. I was forced to empty my pockets of every dime, expose all my belongings to the scrutiny of a line of officers, even take off my coat so that I could be security-wanded by an officer.
I could not walk through the building unless I was accompanied by both a staffer and a police officer, every single step of the way to my representative’s office. I was told that I would not be allowed to use the restroom without a police officer in attendence. I had to pass inspection before at least 30 officers, lined up both outside and inside the King Street entrance.
March Madness has descended upon Madison, Wisconsin, only this madness has nothing to do with college basketball. Scott Walker has already guaranteed himself a one term or less governorship by demonizing public unions as if they represent illegal aliens who need to be deported instead of taxpaying American citizens. What booby prize could Walker be aiming for at this point? Maybe a free tattoo of “Ronald Reagan II” in one inch letters across his forehead?
The Wisconsin Department of Administration has required anyone entering the Capitol to have a badge since Sunday, when protesters were supposed to be removed so the building could be cleaned. Citizens can get a badge from their legislators.
But State Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, said she has been denied access to the building, both with and without her legislator identification, and did not want to continue putting her constituents through that process.
“Tens of thousands of people have been denied entry to this building in the past several days, I’m one of them,” Roys said. “I’m not standing for it anymore.”
State Reps. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, Cory Mason, D-Racine, Nick Milroy, D-South Range, and Roys were among the representatives who moved their offices outdoors.