Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels on Wednesday rescinded new Statehouse security rules that put a 3,000-person limit on the number of people allowed in the building at any one time.
Daniels said he told state police to return to past practices of allowing all visitors into the Statehouse after they've cleared security checkpoints. The Republican governor said state police and the state fire marshal raised valid public safety concerns about large crowds inside the building, but he decided it was important to keep as much public access as possible as the Legislature begins its 2012 session.
"If there comes a point where safety and security seems to be in jeopardy, they have my authority to do something different," Daniels said.
The new limits announced last week would have capped the number of Statehouse visitors at about 1,300 because it took into account 1,700 people who work there or who have access passes, including about 250 lobbyists.
State Fire Marshal James Greeson had defended the capacity limit Tuesday, saying it was based on how quickly the building could be evacuated. He said his staff calculated that with the four exits on the main floor of the 1880s Statehouse, up to 3,200 people could get out within about five minutes.
The new policy was heavily criticized by Democrats, who said the move was politically motivated. Labor union leaders and Democrats argued they believed the capacity limit was intended to frustrate people who wanted to visit the Statehouse to protest the Republican-backed right-to-work proposal being considered.
"This was a unilateral action meant to restrict free speech," Indiana AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Harris said. "The people rose up and complained and he finally listened."
Daniels said he wasn't involved in prompting consideration of the capacity limit and other tighter security rules on what visitors could bring into the building.
"We should error on the side of openness and hope there's not a problem," Daniels said. "If one develops, then we'll look at that."