A state representative in Louisiana who submitted an amendment mandating that strippers be younger than 29 and thinner than 161 pounds later said he was just joking about over-regulation.
Cool gag. The official record now includes a proposal that turned Louisiana's legislative session into a bad comedy open mic.
"I offer up this amendment as a part of keeping the spirit alive of trimming the fat," state Rep. Kenny Havard (R) said on the House floor, to audible laughs and guffaws from the chamber.
The proposal came during debate over a bill requiring dancers at strip clubs to be at least 21 years old, which proponents pitched as an anti-human trafficking measure. Havard's amendment reads that dancers be "between twenty-one and twenty-eight years of age and shall be no more that one hundred sixty pounds in weight."
But a number of members were outraged, calling the amendment and reaction to it embarrassing and disgusting. When state Rep. Nancy Landry (R) asked Havard if he meant such women were unfit to be dancers, audible "ohhs" could be heard from the chamber. Havard responded: "No ma'am, I'm just worried about their health, and I wouldn't want them to hurt one another." More cackles.
Then state Rep. Julie Stokes (R) rose and said, "Looking over this body, I've never been more repulsed to be a part of it."
— Rebekah Allen (@rebekahallen) May 18, 2016
"I refuse the spirit of everything that I've heard. I just can't even believe the behavior in here," Stokes said. "We need to call an end to this. I hear derogatory comments about women in this place regularly. I hear and see women getting treated differently than men, and you know what, you gave me a perfect forum to talk about it."
She added: "I respect Rep. Havard, but I don't know what he was thinking."
Havard wound up pulling the amendment. From the Times-Picayune:
In an interview, Havard said that he didn't mean for anyone to take offense, saying that the language in the amendment didn't mention gender. He brushed off criticism about his decision to offer the amendment as political correctness and said he wouldn't apologize for it.
"It was a poke at overregulating everything — where are we going to stop?" Havard said. "It was aimed at both men and women. I can't strip either. I'm a little overweight."
Asked whether he agreed with Stokes' comment about women being treated differently than men in the Legislature, Havard said, "I haven't seen that at all.
"That's why I'm not going to go apologize," Havard said. "It would give credence to that comment."
Havard insists he has no regrets, the Advocate reported. “No, it was meant as a poke that we’re overregulating everything around here,” he told the newspaper. “It was a joke, that’s why I pulled it. But it was satire to say, ‘Hey, when are we going to stop overregulating everything?' "
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) reportedly weighed in on the amendment:
— Melinda Deslatte (@MelindaDeslatte) May 19, 2016
Landry, the Republican woman who initially questioned Havard on the House floor, told the Advocate that this was one of the most shocking things she's seen in office.
“We’re here representing 40,000 people back home, and half of them are women," she told the newspaper. "They’re mothers, daughters, sisters, and we’re here representing the state as the face of Louisiana to some extent. ... I just don’t think it’s appropriate.”
State Rep. Paula Davis (R) told the Advocate she's seen chivalrous behavior from her male colleagues, but she wasn't down with Havard's attempt at humor. “I didn’t think it was funny. I thought it was inappropriate,” she said. “I couldn’t believe he actually brought it before the full chamber.”
And while Havard said his apparent political satire was intended to highlight overregulation, he voted for the underlying bill. Looks like his "comedy" didn't change hearts and minds, after all.