State GOP leader proposes dress code for interns

1/6/2014

TOPEKA (AP) — A Republican leader in the Kansas House has developed a proposed set of rules governing the appearance and social media behavior of volunteer interns who work for state lawmakers.

TOPEKA (AP) — A Republican leader in the Kansas House has developed a proposed set of rules governing the appearance and social media behavior of volunteer interns who work for state lawmakers.

The list developed by House Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, an Emporia Republican, is in response to a few complaints about decorum, she said. It does everything from banning mohawk haircuts to allowing only female interns to wear earrings — and even then, only one pair.

"We want it set up so they can take pride in the position they hold," Mast told the Topeka Capital-Journal. "Hopefully, they'll benefit from it."

Tennis shoes and strapless tops would be forbidden, as would unflattering photographs or criticism on the interns' Facebook pages.

Violations of Statehouse personal conduct rules could result in dismissal from the intern program, she said.

The guide directs "gentlemen" to wear a suit or dress shirt, tie, slacks and shoes; keep their hair clean and "neatly" styled with no "over-the-top colors;" and they should be clean shaven or have their facial hair trimmed very short.

For the "ladies," options include suits, business dresses, skirt/dress pants and a "dressy" top, according to the draft plan. Halter tops, miniskirts or "skirts/pants that are too tight, skinny dress pants and revealing necklines" are not allowed.

Interns should use very little, if any, perfume or cologne, and they are to cover tattoos and remove all facial and body piercings under the plan. Women would be allowed only one earring in each ear, while men can't wear any at all.

The plan also admonishes interns to view themselves as a "direct representation of the senator or representative" to whom they are assigned, including during their free time, and to never say anything derogatory about others with whom they interact.

Some of the proposal's recommendations raise First Amendment issues, said Will Lawrence, intern coordinator and legislative counsel to the Senate's Democratic leader.

"It is unacceptable for the speaker pro tem's office to draw an arbitrary line as to what they find inappropriate for an intern's appearance or their activity on social media," Lawrence said. "Legislators and their interns should be free to make these decisions on an individual basis."

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, said the guidelines don't appear to be unreasonable.

"They seem to be pretty standard for private business," spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said.

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