World & Nation

Wisconsin Capitol ordered reopened by judge

A judge on Tuesday ordered the state of Wisconsin to reopen the Capitol building — which has been in a virtual lockdown since Monday morning — but union supporters have not yet been able to reenter the building to resume their protests against plans to severely curtail their bargaining rights.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Moeser issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday morning requiring the building to be opened to the public.

But state officials have continued to allow only a limited number of people into the building. A hearing on the issue is expected to be held later Tuesday.

In a statement, the Department of Administration said its current policies allowing limited access to the Capitol are already in compliance with the judge’s order.


Union supporters have camped out in the ornate Capitol rotunda and hallways for the past two weeks in opposition to a Republican-backed budget bill that would rescind most collective-bargaining rights for the majority of state employees. The bill prompted 14 members of the Democratic state Senate minority to flee the state, denying Republicans a quorum to vote on the legislation.

Police cleared many protesters from the building Sunday night. On Monday the Capitol was closed to the public, with the exception of those who had appointments and a limited number who were allowed to attend hearings. The state Department of Administration said in statements that the restrictions were necessary so staff could clean the building.

The ACLU of Wisconsin had sent a letter to the department calling the closure unconstitutional, and the Wisconsin State Employees Union sought a court order to reopen the building. Labor groups staged a protest of the shutdown Monday night, and some protesters camped outside of the Capitol, while a handful remained inside.

Democratic state Rep. Kelda Roys said she had been unable to get constituents into the building for appointments, and she herself was denied access to the building when she refused to show identification.


“I think this has been a tremendous lockdown, and I’m glad to see that’s lifted, and I hope the building will soon be open to the public as it should be,” Roys said.

The restriction would have kept protesters out of the building on a day when Gov. Scott Walker was slated to present a budget expected to substantial cuts to local governments and schools.

Republican state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald held a meeting with several of the missing Democratic lawmakers Monday in Kenosha, Wis., near the Illinois border, according to Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse. The lawmakers discussed the budget repair bill but reached no deal, Welhouse said.

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