Politics 05.14.2008

Sen. Smith explains sex toys, Tucker bumps Trahan and more

LOUISIANA SEN. SMITH EXPLAINS SEX TOYS Ask anyone in Louisiana to name the most pressing challenges facing the state, and you’ll get a laundry list of serious issues: our woeful public education system, battered infrastructure, rising health insurance and flood insurance costs, coastal erosion and a crucial, looming budget battle over how to best spend taxpayer dollars.

Democratic Louisiana state Sen. John Smith of Leesville, however, is thinking about sex. Smith’s Senate Bill No. 712 purports to “regulate sexually oriented businesses and their employees.” Smith’s concerned that, say, an adult video store could open next to a church or school, apparently unaware that no city council is going to let that happen anyway.

Smith sure sounds like he’s done a lot of research, as his bill reads like a lengthy clinical distillation of a Penthouse Forum letter. For example, “Nudity or state of nudity means the showing of the human male or female genitals, pubic area, vulva, anus, anal cleft or cleavage with less than a fully opaque covering, or the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple or areola.” And for the unaware, Smith offers a helpful primer on sex toys: “Sexual device means any three-dimensional object designed and marketed for stimulation of the male or female genitals, anus, female breast, or for sadomasochistic use or abuse of oneself or others and shall include devices such as dildos, vibrators, penis pumps, and physical representations of the human genital organs.”

Elsewhere in his bill, Smith wants to prevent erotic dancers and patrons from having any physical contact. Because in a state where nearly three in 10 adults are illiterate and 84 percent of Louisiana public school students live at or below the poverty line, one of the biggest scourges Louisiana faces is the lapdance.

TUCKER BUMPS TRAHAN Republican State Rep. Don Trahan’s feathers were noticeably ruffled during a debate last week over a resolution that would request a reconfiguration of funding for Louisiana’s community and technical colleges. The change is needed due to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s workforce development plan, which places community and technical colleges on the frontlines of training Louisiana’s emerging labor market.  “No one has been behind this push longer than I have,” Trahan said in one of a few high-handed mini-speeches he gave during the hearing.

Before the bill could be properly introduced, Trahan commandeered the microphone (among the many perks afforded to him as chairman) and explained how he was the true catalyst behind House Concurrent Resolution 65, “even though I was bumped down to a co-author,” he added. So who knocked Trahan off the top of the resolution and stole his glory? It was none other than GOP House Speaker Jim Tucker of Terrytown who wiggled his way to authorship (undoubtedly one of the many perks afforded to him as the elected leader of the lower chamber).

Even without Trahan’s name atop, the resolution was advanced by the committee without opposition. It heads next to the full House for further debate, where Trahan will have another opportunity to air his grievances — this time under the glare of Tucker, who appointed him chairman.

HARDY WANTS THIRD CIRCUIT APPEAL COURT IN LAFAYETTE Democratic State Rep. Rickey Hardy is pushing a bill to move the Third Circuit Court of Appeal from Lake Charles to Lafayette. The state already has $13 million budgeted to build a new Third Circuit Courthouse in Lake Charles but Hardy says it’s time to consider a different location. Last week, Hardy was distributing booklets his office created that make the case for moving the court to Acadiana’s hub city. Among his arguments: Lake Charles is more prone to hurricane damage and disruptions than Lafayette, and Lafayette offers a more centralized location. “It’s more efficient,” Hardy says. The Third Circuit, with 12 state appellate judges, covers 21 parishes from Cameron to St. Martin along the coast and Sabine to Catahoula in the northern region of the state. The court has been operating in Lake Charles since its establishment in 1960.

Hardy’s proposed bill, HB 659, is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee this week; Hardy hopes to have the support of Third Circuit judges as well as other state officials. “It’s going to be a challenge,” Hardy says, “but it’s nothing but a hill for a stepper.”

Contributors: Scott Jordan, Jeremy Alford and Nathan Stubbs