INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 22, 2015) - There are questions over another potential ethics violation in the Indiana General Assembly. A senior Republican representative is being questioned over a possible conflict of interest.
Rep. Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) chairs the House Education Committee. In June, he formed an education lobbying company and has been offered a contract with an out of state education company.
The House Ethics Committee is looking into whether or not he violated his own house rules.
"What I have done is, I have… First of I have no contract with anyone at this point in time. I've submitted it to our ethics committee and am asking them for their opinion and I'll abide by their decision,” said Behning.
Behning, a 23-year Indianapolis representative, is in hot water after creating an education lobbying company to represent out of state clients, like student testing company, Questar. The company is being paid millions this year to create and run tests in Indiana High Schools.
"I'm doing what we're supposed to do. Trying to be transparent and like I said, I'm leaving it to the ethics committee,” said Behning.
"I wasn't an encourager of this course, for sure,” said Representative and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R – Indianapolis). Bosma said he discouraged Behning from any lobbying, "It's happened before. It's happened here more than once where individuals have served in the general assembly here and then been registered to lobby in other states. I'm uncomfortable with that.”
"The first rule for any member is try not to make a spectacle of yourself… If you're able to avoid dancing up to any lines or dancing on the lines and staying well clear of them, usually the public is well served and the constituents of that individual member are well served,” said Representative and House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D – Michigan City).
Ethics reform is a top 2015 priority for the general assembly, after statehouse scandals rocked Indiana in 2014; including former Representative Eric Turner's bill killing conflict of interest.
"This is precisely the type of thing we're trying to bring to light both for the public and to the members of the ethics committee,” said Bosma.
Behning has not yet signed any contract with Questar. The House Ethics Committee meets next week. If they find him in any violation, Behning still, will likely not lose his post as representative.