FEIGENBAUM: Pence's 'road map' puts Legislature in driver's seat

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Ed FeigenbaumEach Hoosier governor brings his own style to his legislative agenda and relationship with the Indiana General Assembly.

For eight years, we watched a governor who was largely a creature of the executive branch dominate state government. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels was never an elected legislator. He came from the federal executive branch, accustomed to conceptualizing and executing, not to the art of compromise and shaping policy.

Daniels decided what he wanted, told lawmakers how he wanted it done, and expected that same package on his desk for signature and implementation without any further meddling by those who simply didn’t understand his vision for the state or how government should work.

Lawmakers had a sense that Daniels was dictating an agenda that offered little opportunity for them to make an impact and, after his first-year stumble on an individual income tax surcharge, he typically got his way. Even on such big initiatives as the Indiana Toll Road lease and Major Moves road-building, ethics reform, property tax caps, and daylight saving time, there was only minimal legislative tinkering.

Each governor also has a tough time putting an imprimatur on his first legislative session. Only two weeks separate the election and the largely ceremonial Organization Day. The period from Election Day to the opening of the legislative session is a mere two months, an all-too-brief interim that an incoming governor must devote to organizing an administration that will hit the ground running.

Last year, Republican Gov. Mike Pence, conforming to the pattern of every incoming governor, struggled to present and advocate a meaningful legislative agenda. Few new governors are able to assemble a team of legislative advocates who can jump right in and articulate what the governor wants in terms of specifics, what he will trade things for, and what he will settle for—and perform those tasks with credibility.

But year two of an administration is a big one in an agenda-building sense, and one in which a governor’s style emerges. As 2014 opens, we can begin to make a few observations about that with respect to Pence.

Unlike his predecessor, Pence is a legislative animal. He spent more than a decade in a legislative body, the U.S. House of Representatives, and didn’t come to that post from a top post in the traditional business world or with executive branch experience in government. He understands the legislative mentality and the role of the legislative branch in government. More important, Pence respects and embraces it.

Daniels had little tolerance, publicly or privately, for the third floor of the Statehouse. He was impatient with the General Assembly and its members, and he seemed to care about the judicial branch only when it was in a position to pass judgment on one of his initiatives or when he could appoint a judge to uphold his programs.

But after witnessing eight years of all good ideas germinating only on the second floor, Hoosiers watched Pence use his legislative background and first year as governor to inform him about how to advance an agenda. He has adopted a collegial approach in which the Legislature (admittedly populated by a Republican super-majority in each chamber) is effectively an equal partner with whom he is quick to share credit. We suspect this might also allow him to off-load some of any resultant blame down the road.

You see a governor who admits he doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas (his ill-fated 2013 attempt to wade into the tax-cut fray with the individual income tax cut was modified by skeptical lawmakers with a surprisingly bigger-picture view than the chief executive on this issue). Using his favored “Road Map” metaphor, he’s pointing out to legislators his destination, and he will afford them latitude to determine the best route there.

This buys him good will with legislators who aspire to play a meaningful role in the process instead of being told both what to do and how to do it, and also generates some political cover for him.

Instead of being forced up front, for example, to reveal where cuts will be made or other taxes and fees will be raised to fund a business personal property tax cut, Pence can simply say he wants the tax cut and let legislators do the dirty work.

Think of Tom Sawyer not painting the fence when you watch the governor and the 2014 General Assembly … and you’ll realize that the work will get accomplished in a genial and collegial fashion.•


Feigenbaum publishes Indiana Legislative Insight. His column appears weekly while the Indiana General Assembly is in session. He can be reached at edf@ingrouponline.com.


  • Collegial?
    Ed, Fascinating description for Pence's approach - "collegial". From Merriam's: marked by power or authority vested equally in each of a number of colleagues. He usurped the power of the only democrat elected at the statehouse by establishing a center through executive order which eliminated any discussion with his colleagues. It would seem you are providing him with the ground cover to navigate a tax shift from businesses on to individual taxpayers in Indiana. Most journalists are zeroing in on how his first year tax cuts have already hurt the previous surplus, and once his poor decision on Medicaid expansion hits the state, expect even more losses in revenue. I wonder how apologetic you'll be in January 2015.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Hello Dear Are you tired of Seeking Loans and Mortgages,have you Been Turned down constantly By your banks and Other Financial Institutions or Micro Finance scheme. This is let you know with 100% guarantee that we Offer loans ranging from $1,000 Minimum to $1,000,000.00 Maximum at 3% interest rate per Month. We give out LOANS for developing business. a competitive edge/business expansion. email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com We offer the following kinds of loans and many more; * Personal Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Business Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Consolidation Loan * Combination Loan * Home Improvement * Xmas Loans for contact to seek for loan email this email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com Thanks

  2. My name is Mr Henry Josh and i live in the USA California and life is worth living right now for me and my family and all this is because of one man sent by GOD to help me and my family, i once had a life filled with sorrow because my first SON needed a kidney transplant and all our savings were going towards his medications and this normally leaves us with no money to pay our bills or even put enough food on our table and our rent was due and no funds to pay these bills and life felt so unfair to me and every night my wife will cry herself to sleep every night until one day, i was browsing through yahoo answers and i saw a striking advert of a man that gives out personal loans and that the offer is opened to all and i have heard so many things about internet scams but at this point of my life, i was very desperate and ready to take any risk and at the end of the day, i applied for this loan and from one step to another, i got my loan within 12 hours through bank transfer and you know, it was all like a dream and i called Mr Daniel Jones A Man who is the GOD sent lender i found and said, i have received my loan and he smiled stating that to GOD be the glory and i was so shocked as i have never ever seen anyone with such a GOD fearing and kind heart and today, i am the happiest man on earth because by GOD’S grace, my SON kidney transplant was successful and today he is healthy, i and my family are living very comfortable and happy and if you are in my former situation or in serious and legitimate need of a loan, you can reach this GOD sent lender via fidelityloanfirm@outlook.com

  3. Greetings to everyone reading this comment!!! I am Greg William by name. I am out here to recommend the effort of Mark Oscar,I was in need of a consolidation loan amount of 50,000 and as soon as I got in contact with Mark Oscar Loan Firm on Wednesday last week and on Friday last week as well I receive an alert from my bank(Royal Bank of Scotland Group) that the fund was transferred,I want everybody on this site to contact Mark Oscar now via email on how to get a loan because I got my loan from them and I am very happy,so contact them now. Oscarloanfinance@hotmail.com Thanks!!!!!!

  4. Elected officials, like Mourdock, get vested in 8 years. It takes 10 years for all other public employees, most of whom make a lot less money. So much for the promise to finish out his term.

  5. Great state treasurer and a good man!! Just curious if the folks who didn't quite understand his quote would like to tell my daughter-in-law that God didn't intend her! Mourdock's comment was correct but twisted and the article didn't mention that his opponent and the press let the impression stand that Mourdock meant that the rape was intended. Stupid people!!