by Karl Kurtz
From the Sacramento Bee:
Bad news for bare shoulders.
While mercury soared to triple digits Wednesday, Assembly sergeants-at-arms began notifying women that a new policy requires them to wear a coat or sweater to enter the chamber.The new policy is squishy, unwritten and still developing, but the goal is to fill in the gaps of a longstanding rule requiring visitors, credentialed media and legislative aides to wear "appropriate business attire" on the Assembly floor.
"This is the chamber of the Assembly, this isn't a barn," said Ronald Pane, Assembly sergeant-at-arms.
For years, Assembly guards had not rigidly enforced the "business attire" rule, but Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, recently began a push to spruce up decorum in the 80-member lower house.
A recent memo by Calderon, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and other Democratic and Republican leaders specified that appropriate attire for men is a coat and tie.
No specifics were given for women – until Wednesday.
Pane said appropriate business attire for women should mirror that of elected assemblywomen, which he characterized as basically including a coat or sweater, with some discretion for alternative business wear....
Tony Beard, Senate sergeant-at-arms, said the upper house also has a "business attire" rule. It requires men to wear a coat and tie, but does not specify what women must wear, he said.
Assemblywoman Lori Saldana pointed out that short sleeves, cap sleeves and scoop necks have become the norm in women's professional attire trends. The San Diego Democrat said female lawmakers already conform to an unwritten agreement to avoid sleeveless dresses and tops.
"I'm old enough to remember when I had to wear a dress to school," Saldana said, "so when I heard this could be happening again my response was, 'Do we have to break out the burqas?' "...
This story made me wonder about how other states handle dress codes. As usual, my intrepid colleague Brenda Erickson has the answer. She did a survey of state legislative dress codes in 2006. About a third of the chambers had something in the formal rules at that time about dress. Most of the others said that they don't have formal rules but that there are traditions or informal guidelines about dress that prevail.