Gov. Mitch Daniels on Wednesday rescinded new security restrictions placed at the Indiana Statehouse that would have limited maximum capacity to 3,000 people.
The cap had been expected to see its first test Wednesday with a labor union protest on the opening day of this year's legislative session against a push by majority Republicans to approve a "right-to-work" proposal.
Daniels said he made the decision to reverse the restrictions after getting input from the public.
"This may be the only major public building in the state of Indiana or elsewhere that doesn't have some kind of a limit on it, but that's alright," he said. "Treat it as a special case and a special place, and we'll do that unless and until there's a problem. So I've asked them to return to the policy of anything goes, (and) monitor it constantly."
The restrictions would have limited public access to the building to one entrance, put elevator banks off limits to all but lawmakers and added to the list of prohibited items.
Republican Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said Tuesday that the limit was based on public safety concerns.
But unions and Democratic legislators called the limit a move by Daniels' administration to stifle debate.
Even as he rescinded the stricter rules, Daniels took a jab at labor, saying union protesters have to be respected, even though they represent "only 9 percent of the population," he said.
Ken Falk, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the state likely avoided costly 1st Amendment lawsuits.
"I think the governor realized the Statehouse belongs to the citizens. You can't say, 'You can get in and you can't.' That's a real problem," he said. "I do think it's telling there weren't any problems last year. It seemed like the state was anticipating some horrendous response, and I think people just want to exercise their 1st Amendment rights to protest."
There was an increased police presence at the Statehouse this morning, but no indications of problems.
"A good analogy is we have the tip of the iceberg. There's what you see and there are things that you may not see," said Indiana State Police Capt. Dave Bursten. "The whole purpose is to have the manpower available if they're needed. Our hope is that they're not needed."
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