INDIANAPOLIS — A state lawmaker who supported legislation that made a single business the only one in Indiana that can certify companies to make the liquid used in e-cigarettes says he sees no conflict of interest in his taking a job with that business.
State Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Terre Haute, voted in favor of bills passed in 2015 and 2016 which, because of how they were written, required any company wanting to produce e-liquid for sale in Indiana to be certified by Lafayette-based Mulhaupt’s Inc.
The law also required makers of the liquid used in the vaping industry to sign a five-year contract with a security company.
Morrison began work in May as a sales consultant for General Alarm Co., a division of Mulhaupt’s.
He said he doesn’t believe voting in favor of the vaping legislation two years in a row and then taking a job with a division of the company that clearly benefited from those laws constitutes a conflict of interest.
“I sell residential and commercial-grade alarm systems,” he told The Indianapolis Business Journal. “I have nothing to do with e-liquids or the monitoring of them or anything like that. To say that I benefited would be more than a stretch.”
But Morrison acknowledged that if he’s re-elected in November, he’ll have to recuse himself from future votes about the vaping issue or on legislation that would affect Mulhaupt’s.
Legislative leaders have pledged to reconsider the vaping law after it became clear that it gave Mulhaupt’s a monopoly over the security provisions in the law.
Two Indiana lawmakers said last month they have been questioned by the FBI about that law’s creation, although the FBI has not confirmed any such investigation is underway.
David Orentlicher, a former legislator and professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, said Morrison’s new position and how he acquired it is “absolutely troubling.”
Morrison told the IBJ that after leaving his job in June 2015 as a gift officer at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, he “let it be known to any and every person that I worked with, whether that be lobbyists in the hallways, people in Legislative Services Agency, (or) people in the business community” that he was looking for a job.
Orentlicher acknowledged that conflicts of interest may be inevitable in a part-time Legislature like Indiana’s, but he said this situation goes “beyond what we have to accept.”
“You shouldn’t be leveraging your public office to get a new job. You’re supposed to be using your position to benefit your constituents,” he said.