Behning drops lobbying plan that raised ethics questions

House Education Chairman Robert Behning has backed off plans to lobby in another state for a student-testing company that does business in Indiana.

In a letter to the House Ethics Committee, the Indianapolis Republican said, “My proposed client and I have agreed that it is mutually beneficial for us to terminate discussions.”

Behning’s decision comes after House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and others expressed concerns the arrangement would create a conflict of interest.

Behning originally submitted a proposed contract with the company, Questar, to the Ethics Committee for review. But in the latest letter – addressed to House Ethics Chairman Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon – Behning revealed he has ended talks with the company “within the past 24 hours.”

“As you are aware, our proposal would have expressly limited services to areas outside of Indiana with a strict prohibition on any dialogue with anyone in our state regarding services the entity may provide here,” he wrote. “But we have decided not to enter an agreement even with the limited scope.”

The debate surrounding Behning’s proposal would have been the first real test of ethics reforms that House Republicans plan to implement next week. The rules changes and a proposed revision of the state’s ethics laws followed questions involving former Rep. Eric Turner and former state Superintendent Tony Bennett.

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