Here’s an update on what happened at the Statehouse yesterday. As you may recall, in I Need Your Help: The Ohio Statehouse, I gave the background about how the folks that control the Statehouse, the CSRAB, had made a rule requiring shoes in the Statehouse. That rule then had to be approved by JCARR (or, I should say, JCARR would hold a hearing on it, and could decide to recommend that the rule be invalidated).
I then asked you all to write to JCARR opposing the rule. You did, and that hearing was held yesterday.
The hearing actually went better than I thought it would. To save you the suspense, JCARR and the executive director of CSRAB decided to table the rule for now while they looked into re-writing it. That means there is good news and bad news. The good news is that it was not immediately approved and we have time to fight it further; the bad news is that they are going to try to still get such a rule passed.
I testified at the hearing. Here is a copy of my written testimony:
My actual testimony varied a bit, as I was still editing in my mind after I wrote it. But what I said was pretty close.
I mainly got questions about just how long I’d gone barefoot. However, on a different tack, the Chair of the committee wanted to know if I had a note from my doctor. That was based on my testimony that going barefoot really does help my knees and other joints (true). Along those lines, the Chair also wanted to know if I was aware that the rules allow one to get a specific exemption (or waiver) from CSRAB rules.
That bothered me. This is really a battle about freedom, and all barefooters should not have to have to first get a specific waiver just to exercise that freedom. There is also the accompanying issue that that means than any spontaneous visit to “The People’s House”, as they call it, is impossible.
After I testified, the CSRAB’s executive director, Mr. William Carleton, was asked to respond to questions from JCARR. This is when it got interesting.
Carleton’s direct response to the committee (before any questions) reiterated what he told me before: there might be cracked tiles in the basement, and that justified the rule. After all the place is 150 years old—who knows what lurks there just dying to grab tender toes? He was then asked if I was the only one who used the place barefoot (he did not know of any others). I think they were concerned about it appearing that I was targeted.
Then one of the Senators got to asking the same line of questions we’ve had about the wording of the rule. What is “full attire”? What is “footwear”?
Carleton’s answer was something that covered the bottom of the foot. So the Senator asked about socks. No, said Carleton, not good enough. The sole must be non-slip. Oh, so they were going to inspect the soles of people’s footwear to make sure they were non-slip?
And then the Senator asked about Vibram Five Fingers (though he did not know the name of them). Were they good enough? Carleton didn’t know—he wanted them to have a hard-enough sole. So we are going way beyond what the word “footwear” normally means. Finally the Senator. pointed out how, with all that cracked tile around, people with hard-soled shoes could trip over them.
Then there were questions about religious objections to shoes (prompted by, I suspect, my reference to hijabs in my testimony). Again, the idea of an exemption came up, but there was also a lot of discussion about just how that exemption would be granted. The normal way is for it to be approved by the CSRAB (the whole board!), which, as was pointed out, meets quarterly. I guess that means you have to schedule your visit to the Statehouse 3 months in advance! (And it was clear that the members of the committee got that.) At one point Carleton said that exemptions could be granted (on a limited basis?) by himself.
In my testimony I also brought up that the Statehouse advertises itself as a place to have weddings and wedding receptions. I also pointed out how so many of the women end up barefoot, and were they really going to set the shoe police on them? That also brought forth the idea of using a waiver for weddings.
Seriously, the idea of needing a waiver really drives me nuts. If the Statehouse really is that dangerous to barefoot people that you need a rule, how does it suddenly become not dangerous when an exemption is granted? I suspect, deep in their heart of hearts, they know going barefoot is not that dangerous (tiles???), but they logically cannot see that they are being driven by their sense of decorum
Another member wanted to know, in the 150 years that the Statehouse did not have a shoe rule, if there had ever been any barefoot injuries. Carelton knew of none. She also wanted to know what the penalty was. Carleton said there was no penalty, just that the person would be asked to leave (but, of course, if they don’t, that’s criminal trespass—Carleton didn’t say that, though).
In the end, the committee decided that the rule needed to be fleshed out (how, exactly, I don’t know). So, it is tabled for now, while CSRAB consults with members of the legislature and tries to nail down their language.
What to do next? Partly I’m still figuring that out. I need to be part of any discussions on how they decide to change it. What would be really nice if other Ohio barefooters would really be an active part of that. Anybody interested? You can contact me via the About page, or via Facebook (yes, I do accept friend requests, which will also alert you to new entries on this blog).
In the meantime, feel free to write more letters to JCARR. What we want to do is stop the rule, not modify it to make it more exacting (with waivers and the like).
The list of their addresses, as before, is here. Points that I suspect are important now are
- If the Statehouse really is that dangerous to barefoot people that you need a rule, how does it suddenly become not dangerous when an exemption is granted?
- If the Statehouse has gone 150 years without a barefoot rule, why does it really need one now?
- This rule is really too big of an intrusion on the very liberty that the Statehouse was built to preserve.
- This inordinate fear of barefoot injuries is based on a myth that people (particularly CSRAB) refuse to let go of.
If you can think of other points, feel free to include them.
Here’s the timetable. The CSRAB next meets January 19. JCARR next meets on January 9, but I don’t think this rule will be on the agenda then (though I will definitely keep tabs). What matters is what’s going on behind the scenes, and I have to figure out how to get plugged in to that.
This story is hitting the news (search Google News with “Neinast Statehouse Barefoot”). Here’s one from the Ohio News Network. Most of the others (mostly through the State of Ohio) say much the same thing. One thing that bothers me is the line about “[Neinast] said that wearing shoes hurts his feet, knees and hips and that going barefoot doesn’t violate any health codes.” Couldn’t the journalists have verified that there aren’t any health codes on their own, instead of just making it my claim?
And again, I really need Ohio barefooters to step forward, to talk to legislators, and to show up at meetings.