Kenny Havard

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, talks to media members after the House adjourned for the day, Thursday, May 19, 2016, regarding his 'joke amendment' about weight and maximum age limitations for strippers, proposed the day before to a bill regulating strip clubs. The bill actually passed, but without the amendment, but many found Havard's amendment inappropriate and offensive. Havard was not present during the House's afternoon session, but kept a scheduled appointment for an interview.

The Louisiana Family Forum presented a family advocate award Tuesday to State Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, who joked last year in the Legislature about regulating the ages and weights of strippers.

Gene Mills, president of the Family Forum, presented the award to Havard at a Ronald Reagan Newsmaker lunch. Mills praised Havard, saying he appreciates his sense of humor and that Havard learned he needed to be careful after the incident.

"I learned my lesson last year," Havard laughed as he accepted the award and joked about worrying that he would end up as the subject of another legislative expulsion bill authored by State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge.

Havard made national headlines in May of 2016 when the legislature debated a bill to raise the age of dancers at strip clubs from 18 to 21. The bill was intended to help prevent human trafficking that happens at night clubs.

But Havard submitted a written amendment that would mandate dancers at strip clubs be younger than 28 and weigh less than 160 pounds. Other legislators challenged him and he withdrew the amendment, calling it a joke about overregulation. But Havard would not apologize, saying instead that political correctness was "ruining the state."

On Tuesday, Mills also presented a family advocate award to Claitor, who he called a friend of his.

The Family Forum gives family advocate awards to all legislators who score between 80 percent and 99 percent on their legislative scorecard, which grades legislators on how they voted on issues the Family Forum considers related to "life, liberty and limited government."

Most legislators received their 2016 awards in September, but Havard and Claitor both missed the awards ceremony then. They are among 40 state representatives and 11 state senators who received the 2016 family advocate awards.

As Claitor accepted the award Tuesday, he talked about his upcoming attempt to expel State Sen. Troy Brown, D-Napoleonville, who pleaded no contest last month to a domestic abuse charge.

It was the second time in recent history that Brown was accused of domestic abuse. He pleaded no contest earlier in 2016 for an incident when he was accused of punching his girlfriend in the eye after the 2015 Bayou Classic football game.

In a no contest plea, a defendant accepts responsibility for a crime, but the admission cannot be used for a civil proceeding.

"It simply says that in the Senate, we have a bar that you have to clear, which is, you don't beat women multiple times," Claitor said, and the crowd of around 20 lunch attendees at Cafe Americain laughed.

"Our standard is at least as high as the NFL," Claitor continued. "I mean seriously, I'm not trying to be funny. That's an easy line to draw. That's the question, do we allow that? It's not a joke, we're all against that kind of thing and don't accept that type of behavior."

Claitor, Havard and State Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, spoke about their expectations for the legislature's special session, which began February 13. The lawmakers are trying to close a $304 million deficit and Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked them to use close to $120 million from the state's rainy day fund.

Although Claitor, Havard and Carter are all Republicans, each took a different stance on whether it was prudent to tap the rainy day fund. Claitor said the State Senate is waiting on the State House to show them opportunities for cuts, but that the rainy day fund exists to be used if it’s needed.

Havard, on the other hand, said he did not want to prolong the wait for cuts that will eventually come. He said the legislature should make cuts now.

"I'm for funding TOPS and I'm for cutting DHH or LDH or now what they're called," Havard said. He pointed to the state's contracts with private hospitals to care for the poor —including Our Lady of the Lake in Baton  Rouge — as problematic, saying the state did not have enough leverage to make good deals with the private hospitals when state-run charity hospitals were closing.

Carter was in the middle, saying he does not want to raid the rainy day fund, but that LSU has also lobbied him hard to use the money and protect higher education funding — which would otherwise be on the chopping block. He said he expects some use of the rainy day fund, but not the full $119.6 million that the governor has requested.

"There probably will be a compromise," Carter said.

Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​