Nebraska state senators look at how to handle harassment at Legislature

Hearing comes a month after Groene's resignation

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The Legislature’s Executive Board met on Monday to hear a resolution presented by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh to appoint a special committee to handle future workplace harassment allegations.

Cavanaugh is hoping to form the Special Ethics Investigative Committee, as well as look into the current policies to see where improvements can be made.

“After everything that happened with Sen. (Mike) Groene, it was very clear that we don’t have institutional processes,” she said. “And obviously this is something that has been discussed in previous legislatures, and I think it bears repeating and looking at further and continuing to pick up on the work that others have done over the years so that hopefully we can protect our employees a little bit better moving forward.”

Last month, Groene resigned after accusations that he took inappropriate photographs of a legislative aide.

One of the reasons something similar hasn’t been approved in the past is that lawmakers don’t want to reprimand a senator in a way that would also hurt the people he represents.

“Limiting our ability to speak on the floor limits our ability to represent the people that we were elected to represent,” Cavanaugh said. “So there are some complications on how different situations are handled, but there still needs to be a process for some sort of repercussions, even if it’s not about your floor time, but there should be repercussions about inappropriate behavior.”

Sen. Julie Slama introduced a similar resolution.  She is asking for an interim study to look at issues relating to the workplace polices of the Legislature.

Sen. Wendy DeBoer is also asking for an interim study on polices governing personnel and conduct at the Legislature.

“The three of us did discuss our LRs, and we were all coming from different approaches, so there is a lot of opportunities to improve in the Nebraska Legislature,” Cavanaugh said.

Even though it’s late in the session, Cavanaugh hopes to see progress made.

“I hope that they move either my resolution or a combination of Sen. DeBoer and Sen. Slama’s resolutions together,” she said. “I hope that they move something forward to start working on it over the interim.”

The Executive Board did not take action on any of the resolutions on Monday.

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