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Toward a More Sensitive Legislature

Church hugs -- a forward lean from the waist -- are fine. Bear hugs are not, even if you think you're just being friendly.

And, no, you cannot display the swimsuit edition of "Sports Illustrated" in your office.

These are some of the rules about sexual harassment imparted to the 141 members of the House of Delegates last week in the legislature's first-ever mandatory sensitivity training seminar.

Although it was mandatory for House members, it was optional for senators, leading to some speculation that the chamber, led by President Thomas Mike V. Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), may be ..... less attuned to changing times?

"We don't mandate things," Miller told senators as he announced the program. "We give you three days to learn and listen and understand how the world functions and how we need to adjust."

Miller acknowledged that the training might "be difficult for some of us with white hair" but encouraged his member senators to go. He attended the final session Thursday, and Senate sources said a majority of senators attended.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said he orders his members to go. because "We thought it was appropriate for them to understand they're in a position of power with the people around them."
Lawmakers gave the seminar mixed reviews.

Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George's) said lawmakers spent a lot of time debating what they can and cannot say to people who work for them.

"Of course we have all these lawyers in the room, so there was all this discussion about First Amendment rights," Peters said.

Del. Kevin Kelly (D-AlleghenyAllegany) was not pleased. "I learned absolutely nothing," he said. "You're telling me if I have a subscription to "Sports Illustrated" and it comes to my office and the swimsuit edition comes in the mail, I have to censure censor that? It's totally ludicrous."

Lisa Rein

By Phyllis Jordan  |  January 29, 2007; 9:37 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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