What’s happening in Tallahassee is not a regular session of the Florida Legislature. It is what I have deemed the 2011 irregular session.
What’s been on tap for the last several weeks in our capital city?
You name it — drug testing for state employees, courts and the Medicaid overhaul, PIP rewrite, abortion issues, a budgetary legislation that names the barking tree frog the official state amphibian. However, most important is the debate over a word that describes a woman’s body part.
As I watched this particular debate on the floor of the House, I couldn’t help reminiscing about one of my favorite old Seinfeld episodes. You remember the one — where Jerry forgets the name of the woman he is dating and tries diligently to solve the mystery. Given the clue that her name rhymes with a female body part, Jerry and George come up with possible candidates: Aretha, Celeste and Bovary (use your imagination). Finally, at the end of the episode, his date presses him to say her name. Jerry guesses Mulva, causing her to storm out of his apartment. As she is leaving, Jerry tries again — Gipple?
Then, in a flash of insight, Jerry runs to the window and yells, “Dolores!”
And now, talk of female body parts — specifically the uterus — has “permeated” the halls of our capitol . Now, I never shy away from these types of issues. As a matter of fact, I have represented the Florida Obstetric and Gynecologic Society in the halls of the capitol for over 27 years now, and I have heard a lot about female body parts over those many years. However, the use of this term was not in the context of a debate on abortion or cancer awareness or woman’s health at all.
It turns out the controversy was over a debate on a bill that prohibits paycheck deductions for union dues. This issue has been controversial throughout this entire irregular session in Tallahassee, but it took an unusual turn when the bill was heard on the House floor.
The issue came up when a Democratic legislator from Orlando said a Legislature that is “bought and sold by the Florida Chamber of Commerce will not let us pass bills that effectively protect the middle class and … protect women from their radical agenda.” The gentleman in question said: using the word “uterus” was to make a point that Republicans support deregulation, except when it comes to women’s bodies. State Rep. Scott Randolph told the St. Petersburg Times that “I always say their philosophy is small government for the big guy and big government for the little guy. And so, if my wife’s uterus was incorporated or my friend’s bedroom was incorporated, maybe they would be talking about deregulating.” However, although the mention of the word was “barely” noticed at the time, the issue soon got out of “hand” in the media.
Apparently, Randolph claimed that the House speaker did not want these terms used on the floor. The truth of the matter is that, in response to these claims, House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, clarified that the word is certainly permitted.
And, now that it has been declared that it is indeed OK to say it, people in the capitol can’t stop saying it.
Upset about budget cuts? Disgruntled Democrats and lobbyists say “uterus!”
Angry about the lousy weather in Tallahassee? “Uterus!”
Ticked off that they ran out of sushi at Sharkey’s Capitol cafeteria? “Uterus!”
Don’t like naming the barking tree frog as the official state amphibian? “Uterus!”
Uterus has become so popular that it now has a Facebook page with 2,500 members and growing, as well as Twitter hash-tags.
And, now, people all around the capitol (mostly Democrats and lobbyists who are failing to pass legislation) are wearing pink lapel pins spelling out the word uterus in capital letters.
What is the Palm Beach County legislative delegation saying about the issue?
Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, commented: “That is crazy! In front of pages? Little children? OMG!”
“If Republicans would have let it go, that would have been the end of it,” said Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “For some reason, they didn’t.”
Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, the minority leader, warned members at the end of a Wednesday caucus meeting not to wear the buttons on the House floor.
“You have to leave your uteruses in your offices,” joked one legislator.
Rep. Steve Perman, D-Boca Raton, hid his button inside his jacket and entered the House chamber.
Welcome to the irregular Session of the Florida Legislature! Uterus!