AP News

Speaker O'Neal to head Kansas Chamber of Commerce

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Retiring Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal announced Wednesday that he has accepted the job as president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a powerful organization that was influential in pushing tax cuts through the 2012 Legislature.

O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, is leaving the House in January after 28 years when his current term ends. He described the move to the chamber as a natural fit with his own philosophies.

"It was comfortable and that comfort means that I'm fine with what I'm doing even though there may be more money behind Curtain B," he said. "It's going to cool to be close and to be staying engaged and doing something that's compatible. It's really in my wheelhouse."

As president and CEO of the chamber, he will succeed Kent Beisner, who will be chief operating officer.

O'Neal, who announced his retirement from the Statehouse in June, has served four years as House Speaker and was heavily involved in this year's passage of income tax cuts. He plans to move to northeast Kansas.

Ivan Crossland, incoming chairman of the board of the chamber, described O'Neal's hiring as a "natural fit."

"Mike has a strong pro-business voice and advocate," Crossland said. "His vision and the Kansas Chamber vision have always been the same, to make Kansas the best place in America to run a business."

The chamber has an active and aggressive lobbying staff that in the Statehouse, O'Neal said, but he expects he will spend a fair amount of time in the building working on issues.

In the coming months, O'Neal will be meeting with chamber members across the state, including trying to give them a better understanding of the changes in the tax code and how it will impact their businesses.

The chamber has also been active in the 2012 campaign cycle, backing several conservative Republican candidates in their bid to unseat moderates in the Kansas Senate. O'Neal noted that the Kansas Chamber and the Kansas Homebuilders Association were the only two organizations that backed him in 1984 when he was elected to the House, defeating an incumbent in the process.

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