Thursday, May 2, 2013

Florida Democrat State Rep. Mike Clelland finds himself in hole; keeps digging; accomplishes nothing

Gotta love politicians...seems like they are skilled at putting their feet in their mouths like nobody else out there.

President of the Foot-in-Mouth Club for this week is freshman Florida State Representative Mike Clelland, a Democrat who benefited from an Obama reelection year boost (which will not be factor when Scott Plakon faces off against him in 2014) and represents a very Republican district in Seminole County.

Clelland jumped into the spotlight earlier this week, when he made comments about a proposed amendment to a bill regarding physical fitness requirements for firefighters that were interpreted by many as disparaging to women. As Tom Tillison at BizPac Review reported yesterday:

Apology demanded: Fla. Democratic lawmaker says women are fatter
While it’s normal for freshmen legislators to experience a bit of a learning curve during their first year in office, state Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, may have pushed beyond the limits of acceptability Tuesday with a disparaging comment about women’s weight. 
Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, put forth an amendment to SB 1410: Fire Safety and Prevention, which would put in place a body mass index (BMI) requirement for fire fighters. 
Clelland, a former firefighter, rose to question the amendment, asking Adkins if she was aware that firefighters were already required to be “in good physical condition.” She replied that she understood that they had to take an agility test.
After a short exchange about how the law would work, Clelland asked, amidst gasps from the room: “Rep. Adkins, do you know that females are notoriously, ugh.. that they carry a higher BMI than males?” 
In other words, he suggested that women are “notoriously” fatter than men.
Well, that's a bit awkward. The video (posted here on the Florida House website) makes it clear how very awkward the moment was (skip to 1:47 and watch to about 1:53). Clelland doesn't seem to have any problem at all with what he said. Rep. Adkins disagreed, and sent him a letter asking for an apology, stating that his "disparagement of  women and use of gender in debate was offensive" (full letter included at the link). 

Clelland responded today with a move that might get him on the Foot-in-Mouth All-Stars Team: he wrote Adkins a letter saying, in essence, that he was "offended she was offended." 

Now, I've never been a fan of political correctness, but there is a level of decorum expected among legislators, and Clelland displays an attitude that seems to indicate that he'll be following the Scott Randolph model of not being able to play well with others

Maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal if Clelland had actually managed to accomplish something this session. He isn't going to have a single bill passed this year. And yes, I realize that the Democrats don't control the House, but other Democrat members of the Florida House and Senate have managed to get bills passed. Every Representative only gets six bill slots, and they have control over what priorities they want to promote. 

Do the people of Florida's 29th District really have no needs that should be addressed? Or is this just further evidence of how Clelland is out of step with his district? 

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised Clelland is ending his first session on such an inauspicious note: he didn't really have a great start, either, getting busted for speeding on the way to Tallahassee. Clelland actually had the gumption to tell the  Florida Highway Patrol trooper that he was a state representative, responding "I'm on my way to Tallahassee to get sworn in," to the question about why he was speeding. The trooper who pulled him over was later fired, amid allegations that FHP had an "unwritten policy" to give breaks to state lawmakers.

So way to go, Representative Clelland, you're about to finish your first session and you've accomplished absolutely squat except being in the middle of an FHP scandal and saying awkward stuff about women's weight. Here's to 2014!

See also:

Miami Herald | In House, comments about women and weight don't end well

WESH | FHP trooper fired after traffic stops involving lawmakers

WESH | Are lawmakers above the law when it comes to traffic citations?

WFTV | FHP trooper fired for cutting lawmakers a break wants job back

ABC Action News | Fired FHP trooper wants job back after giving breaks to lawmakers

BizPac Review | Fla. Dem. ‘offended’ his comments offended women

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