Executive Board

Halloran censure resolution considered

The Executive Board heard invited testimony March 28 on a resolution to formally censure Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran for remarks made during floor debate last week.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh
Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh

LR335, introduced by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh and cosigned by Sen. Julie Slama of Dunbar, relates to events that occurred March 18 during debate on a bill regarding obscenity laws governing K-12 teachers and librarians.

During the debate, Halloran read a passage from “Lucky,” a memoir by Alice Sebold, which describes a graphic sexual assault that the author experienced. Halloran inserted the names “Senator Cavanaugh” and “Senator Dungan,” who were engaged in the debate on the bill, throughout his reading of the excerpt.

The action resulted in calls for an apology and — from Slama — for Halloran to resign from the Legislature. Halloran apologized on the floor of the Legislature March 19, saying it was a mistake to insert fellow lawmakers’ names into the passage during his speech, and claiming that he was simply attempting to bring their attention to the reading.

The Legislature has launched an official investigation into the incident under its workplace harassment policy.

LR335 asserts that Halloran engaged in behavior that “rises to the level of harassment and hostility to fellow members of the Nebraska Legislature.” It goes on to state that his actions were “contrary to senatorial traditions of decorum” and have brought “disrespect and disrepute” to the Legislature and “shaken” Nebraskans’ confidence in the institution.

Cavanaugh was the lone testifier at the hearing. Sens. John Cavanaugh, Dungan and Halloran declined to do so.

A vote by the Legislature to censure Halloran would not remove him from committee assignments or limit his ability to speak, Cavanaugh said, but would acknowledge that even constitutionally protected speech can have consequences.

“A censure vote is not merely a procedural formality, but a profound expression of our collective conscience,” she said. “It is a reflection of our shared commitment to uphold the integrity and dignity of this body.”

Cavanaugh said the experience had “traumatized” her and her family, and that Halloran’s behavior was “profoundly offensive and fundamentally disrespectful” to the Legislature and its members.

In an email to the committee, Halloran argued that the hearing violated the Legislature’s official rules and that recent instances of “egregious behavior” by senators did not result in censure or other disciplinary action.

In addition, he cited the Nebraska Constitution, which states that “no member of the Legislature shall be liable in any civil or criminal action whatever for words in debate.”

“If I am guilty of anything, it is of working zealously to protect Nebraska’s children, exercising my First Amendment Right of Free Speech in debate on the Legislative floor,” Halloran wrote.

The Executive Board may vote to advance LR335 to the full Legislature for consideration. Twenty-five votes would be needed to adopt the resolution and officially censure Halloran.

Grand Island Sen. Raymond Aguilar, chairperson of the Executive Board, said at the end of the hearing that the committee will take the weekend to consider the resolution. The Legislature is in recess until April 2.

Bookmark and Share