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Dress right

Lawmakers preparing to return to Topeka for the 2014 session might not have any solid ideas on how to pay for all the services provided by the state with self-inflicted revenue shortages, but at least some thought has been given to how interns will dress. And act while off-duty.

Kansans should brace for what could be a long, painful session.

And those college-aged legislative interns should be prepared to follow the new dress code and policy regarding social media use -- or else.

As recommended by the House speaker pro tem, Rep. Peggy Mast, there will be no tennis shoes or strapless tops. Female interns can wear business dresses, suits or a "dressy" top with a skirt or dress pants. Male interns are to wear suits or slacks and a dress shirt with tie.

"We want it set up so they can take pride in the position they hold," said Mast, R-Emporia. "Hopefully, they'll benefit from it."

More of the pride-instilling rules will include clean-shaven men or if they have facial hair it needs to be trimmed short. No earrings will be worn by guys, and women will be allowed only one earring per ear. Nobody will sport piercings elsewhere or visible tattoos.

The personal conduct rules will apply even when interns leave the Statehouse for the day. They will be prohibited from dating legislative staff while serving the internship, and also shall not have "inappropriate pictures, language or anything that might call into question your character" on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Interns will not be able to criticize anybody they encounter or any policy their legislator supports.

What is going on in Topeka? We can't imagine decorum under the dome is so out of hand, so Interns Gone Wild, that leadership needs to crack the whip.

On the other hand, we have no problem with presentable young adults roaming the halls while running errands. Shouldn't the interns be able to follow by example and, should they step out of line, have their individual legislator give them professional guidance? It seems that would be an expected part of the experience.

Sadly, the introduction of these formal rules appear to indicate otherwise. Either that, or legislators are looking for easier problems to solve than faces them with funding K-12 public schools.

Monitoring the social media habits of these young volunteers, and punishing those with objectionable content on their accounts, seems destined to backfire. Do they not remember the uproar surrounding Emma Sullivan? She was the Shawnee Mission East High School student who wrote a disparaging tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback, then was told to apologize. She refused, the story went national, and the governor ended up being the one offering an apology.

State lawmakers don't need to go down the same path. Or, perhaps they do. There will be a lot of backtracking and apologizing going on this session. Practicing with one or two college-age interns might be a good warm-up before saying sorry to the entire state for the previous years' reckless decisions.

We only can assume proper decorum will be followed when the apologies begin.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net