A ranking Indiana House member under scrutiny for using his position to help his children was passed over to head the powerful House Ways and Means committee last year because fellow Republicans were concerned about his and his daughter's lobbying efforts, lawmakers told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner, R-Cicero, seemed poised to become the committee's chairman and to write the state's $30 billion budget, which lawmakers will approve in the coming days. His daughter, Jessaca Turner Stults, lobbies on behalf of Amazon.com, Insure-Rite, nursing home operators and other groups.
Republican lawmakers bypassed Turner for the chairmanship last year amid concerns over his potential conflicts of interest. House Speaker Brian Bosma instead handed the seat to Rep. Tim Brown, a consensus pick without any apparent conflicts of interest . . .
Asked if he was concerned about any conflict of interest arising from a Turner chairmanship, Bosma talked broadly about looking at many things when picking his leadership team.
"You weigh a lot of different factors when you're trying to pick any of the chairman," he said Wednesday.
But three lawmakers who spoke to The Associated Press said they raised their concerns with Bosma and his staff last summer. They said they were worried that clients represented by Turner's daughter would either get special treatment in the budget or appear to get a leg up on competition. The lawmakers insisted on anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss their private conversations . . .
Turner's work as a lobbyist for the U.S. Fireworks Safety Commission, which represents the fireworks industry in other states, and his daughter's lobbying in the Indiana Statehouse have long been a concern, said another lawmaker. But it wasn't until it looked like Turner might write the budget that Republicans pressed Bosma.
A third lawmaker confirmed the accounts of the other two representatives.
Turner has occasionally been rebuffed by his colleagues in the General Assembly on issues involving his family's interests.
Members of the Ways and Means Committee last month rejected a Turner amendment that would have opened the door for Insure-Rite to win a multimillion-dollar state contract. But a similar measure was included in a Senate bill signed by Pence earlier this month.
In 2011, Turner abstained from voting on a measure limiting the number of beds in nursing homes following a newspaper report about how it would benefit his son's company. Turner says he always planned to abstain on the vote and questioned the report . . .