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New Statute in California Cuts Women Some Slacks

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THIS just in: Working women in America's cutting-edge state for fashion, culture, and social trends have just made the world safer ... for pants.

Beginning today, from boardrooms to backrooms, lobbies to legislative chambers, California women who opt for slacks instead of skirts will no longer tiptoe in trepidation of employers who wield Victorian dress codes.

The ``Pants-Are-OK'' law is one of the more peculiar of dozens of statutes taking effect this week in states across the country.

Many of them have been motivated by concerns about crime and meager treasuries. In Georgia, for instance, a tough two-strikes-and-you're-out law will put two-time violent offenders away for life without parole. Indiana is enacting a tax credit for those donating used computers to public schools, Maine is lowering workers' compensation costs for employers, and Pennsylvania is compelling divorced parents to provide health insurance for their children, even if they don't have custody.

In California, meanwhile, supporters of the new pants statute tout it as the most progressive development since the zipper.

``Women make important business decisions every day,'' says Gov. Pete Wilson, who signed Senate Bill 1288 in September prohibiting employers from refusing to allow employees to wear pants solely on the basis of their sex. ``Indeed, working women should be able to make the simple choice on the professional attire they wish to wear.''

Some say they idea is more flaky falderal from the state that once funded a commission to study self-esteem. But others say the cut-me-some-slack(s) trend belongs on California's growing list of more serious, cutting-edge social trends. ``It strikes you as silly when you first hear about it, but it's also very important,'' says Fredelle Spiegel, a socio-historian at the University of California, Los Angeles. ``What is silly is that in this day and age such a bill is necessary - what's important is consciousness-raising over the inequalities that still exist over what a woman wears.''

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