BOSTON – A legislator brought state House proceedings to a halt Friday night when she told colleagues during the budget debate that another lawmaker had threatened to "really hurt" her.
Rep. Jennifer Callahan, a Democrat, said a male representative approached her Thursday and started a casual conversation about a health care amendment she had discussed earlier in the week.
The tone quickly changed, she said, as he said, "I've been in this building a long time" and added, "I could really hurt you if I wanted to." She did not publicly identify the lawmaker.
The allegation was leveled near the end of a long week of budget debate, during which representatives started aligning behind possible successors to Democratic House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who is facing questions about possible ethical violations.
Callahan did not have a chance to elaborate Friday before DiMasi smashed down his gavel and declared, "House will be in a brief recess."
Callahan then walked to the rostrum and spoke with DiMasi, Assistant Majority Leader Lida Harkins and Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty, a Democrat, before sitting in another part of the chamber with Harkins and O'Flaherty.
The three left, then Callahan returned to tell her colleagues she was withdrawing a nurse staffing amendment she favored.
In a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press, O'Flaherty said Callahan was not referring to threats by him, but he would not say why he approached her. "I think you should talk to Rep. Callahan, who is an excellent representative," O'Flaherty said.
A Callahan spokeswoman, Jennifer Warren, called the AP to say the representative was friendly with O'Flaherty and was referring to another member. Warren refused to elaborate.
Callahan released a statement late Friday saying she had "great respect" for DiMasi. "I brought this situation to the floor and to the members tonight because it is concerning to me and must be dealt with," she said. "I am now addressing it directly with Speaker DiMasi and I am confident it is being taken seriously by him."
The budget debate comes amid questions about whether DiMasi can survive recent allegations that he has been crafting legislation to help the interests of friends.
While DiMasi and his aides have said he plans to remain speaker for the foreseeable future, a race for his post between Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo and Rep. John Rogers has pitted many House allies against each other.
Callahan, a registered nurse, leveled her accusation after taking advantage of leniency granted to her by DiMasi. She had asked the speaker to discuss the nurse staffing bill after he had already cut off debate on it.
After making comments about the amendment and the approaching National Nurses Week, she veered off script.
"I also want to talk just briefly about something I am not proud of," she said.
She then began explaining that comments she had made earlier in the week about a palliative-care amendment prompted the criticism from her unnamed colleague.
"He leveled his eyes at me and he said, 'I've been in this building for a long time, Jen,' and, 'I wanted you to know that I could make things real difficult for you. I mean, Jen, I could really hurt you if I wanted to,"' Callahan told her colleagues.