There was surprise but also some relief at the news that House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, is retiring after 14 terms in the House. His admirable length of legislative service, which spanned seven governors, gave him a comprehensive view of the state and its needs. And his constituents always knew where he stood – firmly on the right. But he could be tone-deaf, such as when he sued the state as an attorney over the legality of a budget maneuver he repeatedly had endorsed as a legislator, and when he forwarded offensive e-mails about the Obamas. And as House speaker he gained a reputation for being divisive and even cutthroat. Given that he appointed himself as his chamber’s leader on redistricting, much of the session’s epic failure to agree on new maps falls on him. His real legacy, though, may be how he rammed through the massive tax-cut bill, and how Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director told O’Neal after the vote, “We’ll always remember it.”
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