State officials say they will not be able to count the number of people in the statehouse with complete accuracy when determining whether the occupancy has exceeded the recently-instituted cap. Officials made the statement at a press conference held Tuesday afternoon aimed at clarifying the new policy.
The cap of about three thousand people is based on two figures: there are approximately 1,700 people with access badges and special event guests slated to be in the statehouse on any given day. That allows for a little less than 1,500 members of the public. State police will use the metal detectors at each public entrance to roughly count people going in, and officers stationed at all exits will try to determine how many go out.
State police spokesman Dave Bursten says the policy was developed after the large number of people who came to the building during last year’s legislative session.
“We’re looking at the public safety issue and a lot of people have come back and said, ‘You’re trying to limit people’s access to the house.’ Farthest thing from the truth,” he says.
State Fire Marshall Jim Greeson helped developed the cap using state fire codes. And he says the policy is not written in stone.
“This policy will be assessed,” he says. “We’ll look at things day-to-day and if there’s things we discover, then we’ll make adjustments.”
Critics have raised free speech concerns around limiting access to the Statehouse. Bursten says it is possible the new cap will go to court, but public safety is not a constitutional issue.