TOPEKA – A committee investigating a complaint against Wichita Democrat Rep. Jim Ward will open hearings Thursday and question the lawmakers who felt Ward deceived them with an amendment to a tax bill.
Rep. Clark Shultz, a Lindsborg Republican who chairs the investigating committee, said he doesn’t expect to hear from all 26 Republican House members who signed the complaint against Ward.
After the hearings, the committee of three Republicans and three Democrats will vote whether to dismiss the complaint or recommend that the full House vote to censure, reprimand or expel Ward from the House.
This is just the third complaint of misconduct in the House in the state’s history. One complaint was dismissed in 2010 and another was dismissed in 1951.
Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, and 25 other House Republicans claim Ward deliberately misled the House four times about an amendment to a tax bill. His amendment deleted a Republican-backed plan and put in its place a Democratic idea to send $90 million to local governments for property tax relief.
Susan Kannar, chief clerk of the House, said Ward’s amendment was available online for about 40 minutes before lawmakers voted 122-2 in favor of the bill.
Republicans later said they felt Ward deceived them by not making it clear that his amendment replaced the underlying bill. Ward said Republicans failed to read the amendment and voted without reading what they were voting on.
Republicans pushed for a revote, killed Ward’s bill and sent both Republican and Democratic ideas back to a committee.
The House has since approved both the bills.