Topeka — A House committee Tuesday started consideration of ethics rules for House members in response to an investigation earlier this year into House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson.
During the legislative session, an investigative panel dismissed a misconduct complaint against O'Neal, but urged changes in the law that allowed O'Neal to file a lawsuit against the state.
On Tuesday, House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, who had filed the complaint against O'Neal, said the House should have rules to prevent potential conflicts of interest.
Davis said ethics problems are infrequent in Kansas government, but added, "We really have an area here where we have some deficiencies that we need to devote some attention to."
The House Rules and Journal Committee is considering the changes. Chairman Clark Shultz, R-Lindsborg, said the committee would probably make a recommendation next month.
Although Davis was at odds with O'Neal over the ethics complaint during the session, he said he was grateful the speaker allowed the committee to take up the issue.
"We all have a duty to protect the institution to ensure the public inherently trusts what we are doing," Davis said.
The O'Neal dispute was over the speaker filing a lawsuit on behalf of some businesses, trade groups and insurance funds that challenged action by the Legislature last year to sweep their fee funds in state accounts to help balance the state budget.
O’Neal voted against the sweep, and filed an official protest -- required for him to bring the lawsuit. Democrats said O’Neal, who holds the most powerful position in the House, created a conflict of interest by leading the lawsuit on behalf of powerful interests against the state.
But O'Neal denied any wrongdoing and said the complaint was based on partisan politics. He said the dismissal of the complaint vindicated him.