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What exactly is a censure and what does it mean?

Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti censured after using racial slur
Annapolis state house
Posted at 12:54 PM, Mar 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-01 12:54:10-05

The House of Delegates censured one of their own this week after she was accused of using a racial slur to describe a Maryland county, and the news has a lot of people wondering what a censure exactly is.

Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti was voted to be censured on Thursday after using the "n" word at a bar in Annapolis to describe Prince George's County, a predominately black district in Maryland.

READ MORE: Maryland House of Delegates votes to censure Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti after she used racial slur

A censure is the severe disapproval of someone or something in a formal statement.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, the right to expel or censure someone in a legislative body originated with the English Parliament in the 16th century. They say the legislative body has the right to censure, expel, or instill other disciplinary actions whenever a member is involved in some sort of misconduct.

The NCSL says the reasons a lawmaker can be disciplined often are vague or not specified, but usually it involved disorderly behavior or conduct.

Lawmakers are able to expel a member, but it is a very rare occurrence. Only 17 chambers have every taken this very serious action including; Alabama Senate, North Carolina House, Alaska Senate, Pennsylvania Senate and House, Arizona Senate, South Carolina House, Florida House, Virginia Senate, Louisiana Senate, Washington House, Michigan House, West Virginia Senate, Minnesota House, and the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly.

According to the NCSL, Maryland has never censured a lawmaker, but 21 other legislative bodies across the country have. They say that any disciplinary action used by legislators is rare in general. Some of the examples provided by the NCSL are from disorderly conduct, bribery, perjury, treason, vote trading, violation of public trust and more.

In the state of Maryland, someone can be censured if they are involved in "Disorderly or disrespectful behavior," which would fall under what Delegate Lisanti is accused of.

So overall, while Delegate Lisanti has been officially censured, it does not mean she is stripped from her responsibilities as a Delegate, it just announces that the House of Delegates disapproves her actions.

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