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ha_assembly6555.JPGThe California Assembly is learning the hard way: Telling women what to wear is not easy.

Two days after Assembly sergeants-at-arms began notifying women that they must wear a coat and sweater to enter the chamber floors, the house suspended its policy Friday amid confusion and controversy.

Ronald Pane, sergeant-at-arms, said the policy has been shelved until Assembly leaders can decide how best to fill in the gaps of a longstanding rule requiring "appropriate business attire" on the Assembly floor.

A recent memo by Assembly leaders elaborated by saying that men must wear a coat and tie.

The memo did not specify appropriate women's wear, but on Wednesday, Assembly officers were notifying female visitors and aides that they need to wear a coat or sweater to enter the floor.

At the time, Majority Leader Charles Calderon said he wanted everyone on the floor to be dressed in a professional manner, but that he did not specifically mandate a coat and sweater.

"Women should look at how members are dressed on the floor and use that as a guide," Calderon said.

Women lawmakers tend to wear light, stylish coats or sweaters of various colors on the Assembly floor.

Pane characterized appropriate women's business attire Wednesday as basically a coat and sweater, with some discretion for alternatives. The standard was not in writing, however, and caught female visitors and legislative aides by surprise.

One woman who sought entrance Wednesday and was informed by an Assembly guard about the coat-or-sweater policy complied by putting on a men's coat that hung several inches below her fingertips.

Pane said Friday that suspension of the policy will allow more time for discussion and definition of appropriate business garb for women. He gave no timetable but said he expects the issue to be resolved "sooner rather than later."

Meanwhile, men are expected to continue wearing a coat and tie, Pane said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Andi Lane, left, a legislative assistant for Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, waits at the back of the Assembly floor on Wednesday, August 25, 2010. Women were then required to wear a coat or sweater to enter the Assembly chambers. Hector Amezcua/ Sacramento Bee



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