Sometimes, lawmakers just aren’t that smart

Sometimes, lawmakers just aren’t that smart February 19, 2020
Illinois state capitol; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Illinoiscapitol2.jpg

In the news last week:

Tampon Tax Break Faces Resistance in Tennessee; A proposal to include feminine hygiene products during Tennessee’s annual sales-tax holiday is facing resistance from lawmakers concerned about the lack of limit on on [sic] such purchases.” AP, February 11, 2020.

Male lawmaker frets about loss of state income if tampons are included in tax-free holiday” — Washington Post, February 13, 2020.

A male lawmaker worries women will abuse a tax break to hoard tampons; ‘That is what our elected representatives think of us,” one menstrual equity advocate says.’” – Vox, February 13, 2020.

“Tennessee Republican fights tax-free tampon bill, says people may buy too many tampons,” Daily Kos, February 12, 2020.

The background, as explained by the Vox article, is this:

A debate erupted this week in the Tennessee state legislature over the danger of women buying too many tampons.

The concern came up during a hearing Tuesday about taxation of the products. Specifically, Democratic lawmakers in the state have proposed a bill to include tampons and other menstrual products in Tennessee’s yearly sales tax holiday, a three-day weekend when residents can buy things tax-free.

But state Sen. Joey Hensley, a Republican, worried that this might lead to out-of-control tampon-buying.

“I would think since it’s a sales tax holiday, there’s really no limit on the number of items anybody can purchase,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “I don’t know how you would limit the number of items someone could purchase.”

Hensley’s remarks have gotten nationwide coverage, with some questioning his grasp of the human menstrual cycle.

But Hensley defended himself to Vox:

The lawmaker told Vox in an email that he is not actually against adding tampons to his state’s tax holiday, and that his concern was merely “getting the facts regarding the cost of the bill.”

And the remainder of Vox’s reporting, at least, goes on to discuss the campaigns in various states to make tampons sales tax-exempt or even provide them free of charge to various groups — but not before, in reporting and on twitter, everyone had a good laugh about yet another foolish Republican lawmaker.

Let’s have some more laughs, shall we?

In Illinois, we have a bill which proposes the banning of individuals pumping their own gas, the Gas Station Attendant Act.  As WCSJ News reports,

A Cook County lawmaker has introduced the Gas Station Attendant Act. The proposed law was introduced into the Illinois General Assembly on Feb 5th by Illinois Democratic State Representative Camille Lilly.

The legislation states that no gas may be pumped at a gas station in Illinois unless it is pumped by a gas station attendant employed at the gas station.

After her proposal received howls of derision on twitter, and more measured objections both locally and nationally, Lilly sought to explain herself:

In a statement her office has released since then, however, Lilly said that HB 4571 “is not intended pass as is,” adding that the bill’s intention “is to give consumers the option to be serviced by a gas station attendant, in addition to the self-service option currently used.”. . .

During a Feb. 14 interview on WGN Radio 720, . . . Lilly . . . placed some blame for the confusion on the Illinois Legislative Research Unit, the nonpartisan legislative research agency that state lawmakers rely on to do the legwork of translating their intentions into actual policy. Lilly said the description online is not what she intended to propose.

At the same time, however, Lilly has been claiming that one of her objectives is to “create jobs,” which suggests that she would mandate that customers be able to request service by an attendant at no additional charge, paid for by the rest of us.

Finally, hee’s a proposal out of Alabama, as reported by Cheryl Magness at The Federalist, citing WSFA 12 News:

Last week Alabama state Rep. Rolanda Hollis introduced a bill that would require men in the state to get a vasectomy at the age of 50. The bill would also require a vasectomy after a man has had three biological children.

Asked about the bill on Twitter, Hollis responded: “The Vasectomy bill is to help with the reproductive system. This is to neutralize the abortion ban bill. The responsibility is not always on the women. It takes 2 to tangle. This will help prevent pregnancy as well as abortion of unwanted children.”

Magness continues,

Hollis is not the first lawmaker to employ the strategy of proposing regulation of male biology to make a point about supposed governmental intrusion into female biology. On March 11, 2019, Georgia Democrat state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick proposed a “Testicular Bill of Rights” in her state. Instead of requiring vasectomies, Kendrick’s bill sought to ban them.

Kendrick told Rolling Stone she was “dead serious” and that the point of the bill was to “bring awareness to the fact that if you’re going to legislate our bodies, then we have every right to propose legislation to regulate yours.”

There are surely an endless supply of legislators who say and do appalling things, from both political parties.

Is the take-away that men are stupid (for a failure to understand or properly sympathize with the burdens women face when menstruating)?  That women don’t understand economics or that they abuse the legislative process and waste time and money to make a symbolic point?

I tend to go with:  state legislators (and city council members, for that matter) aren’t necessarily all that bright.

Depending on the particulars, being elected is as much about having the right connections and falling into the right circumstances as any particular skill, let alone having the sort of wisdom that we imagine our leaders ought to have.  It’s all the worse when a lawmaker “inherits” a seat from a spouse or parent or relative or “sponsor” of one sort or another, or is appointed when a seat is vacated and keeps the seat indefinitely, but “lawmakers say the darndest things” can happen even in nominally competitive races, too, and it has nothing to do with political party or race or sex or any other such characteristic, however much reporters and pundits might like to assign blame that way.


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