Explainer: What Does It Mean To Be Censured In The Wyoming Legislature?

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, could become the first legislator in recent history to be censured for a breach of decorum, if his colleagues vote to do so this week.

Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, told his colleagues on Friday that he was going to bring a motion to censure “one member and possibly two members” of the body this week. One is likely Harshman, but Bear did not clarify who the second was, saying he wanted to speak with the member first.

The Legislative Service Office told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that no legislator had been censured for breach of decorum in recent history. A censure is a formal expression of disapproval that has no effect.

Bear’s announcement comes after Harshman lost his privileges to participate remotely in the Legislature’s current special session. The action was Harshman’s punishment for an incident Thursday when Harshman, who was participating in the session by Zoom, was overheard using foul language directed at fellow Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper.

“Chuck Gray, f*****,” he was heard saying. “Little f*******.”

Harshman, the former Speaker of the House, did not realize his audio was on when he made the comments.

House Speaker Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, handed down the punishment after identifying three breaches of conduct Harshman committed on Thursday: Addressing the body without permission from the chair, using a name of another member and inappropriate language.

“Your conduct was unbecoming, so I want to condemn it, clearly,” Barlow said.

Bear on Friday announced that as a result of the incident, he would seek to censure Harshman, a move he originally planned to make on Monday. However, the House is not in session again until Wednesday.

According to the Wyoming Legislature’s rules, which the Senate and House of Representatives voted on during the legislative session in the spring, reprimand or censure of a legislator shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of the elected members.

The censure would remain on LSO records.

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