State Rep. says he will not apologize for stripper weight amendment
BATON ROUGE - The state representative who proposed banning strip clubs from hiring dancers weighing more than 160 pounds said Thursday he will not apologize for his amendment.
Republican Rep. Kenneth E. Havard proposed an amendment that would limit employees to be "between twenty-one and twenty-eight years of age and shall be no more than one hundred and sixty pounds in weight."
Female members of the legislature were outraged and their frustration continued Thursday, especially as Havard appeared on morning radio shows to discuss his comments. Comments, he insisted were satire about the original discussion over regulating strippers.
In an interview at the Capitol Thursday, Havard stood firm.
"It's regretful that some people got offended by it, but I don't think I will apologize for being politically incorrect," he said.
Havard said he proposed the amendment to make a point that the legislature should not be debating "feel good issues" but rather bigger issues like the state's budget.
"We have bigger issues to deal with rather than some of these feel-good issues," Havard said. "I don't think the stripper bill will help human trafficking at all. It's just another form of overregulation."
As some lawmakers continued to debate the comments, their colleagues killed a proposal that would require equal pay for men and women. The equal pay bill was a cornerstone of Governor John Bel Edwards' campaign and its defeat is a significant loss to his legislative agenda.
"The failure of the House Labor Committee to pass the Equal Pay Act today is a true disservice to the women of our state,” Gov. Edwards said. “Very few issues have the support of 90 percent of Louisiana, but the support for legislation granting equal pay for equal work crosses the political spectrum. The pay gap in Louisiana is the worst in the entire country, and we can do better. This disparity ... directly impacts children and families who many in the legislative body espouse they value. Actions speak louder than words, and the time has come to stop talking about family values and start making decisions that actually value families."
Bill supporters cited statistics showing that women in Louisiana consistently earn less across occupations. The proposal would apply an equal pay law governing state workers to private industry, outlining how to file discrimination complaints and, possibly, lawsuits. Opponents, including the state's largest business lobbying groups, said the measure would encourage frivolous lawsuits.
In a House labor committee, the measure was killed; banned from advancing to the full House for debate. The Senate had backed the measure requiring private businesses to pay the same wages to men and women who perform the same work.
In response to Havard's comments, State Rep. Helena Moreno started an online petition to stand up for women's rights. You see that petition here.
VOTING FOR THE BILL: Reps. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer; Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches; Ted James, D-Baton Rouge; Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette; and Edward Price, D-Gonzales.
VOTING AGAINST THE BILL: Reps. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond; Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall; Gregory Cromer, R-Slidell; Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville; Dodie Horton, R-Haughton; Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro; Blake Miguez, R-Erath; Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport; and Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs.