INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence wasted no time getting to business Monday – signing a slew of executive orders and meeting with legislative leaders after delivering a hopeful inaugural speech and taking the oath as Indiana’s 50th governor.
About 2,000 Hoosiers witnessed the ceremony in chilly January weather outside the Indiana Statehouse. Hand-warmers were passed out to keep the 19-degree temperature at bay.
Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Attorney General Greg Zoeller also were sworn in and gave short speeches. Several former governors, including Mitch Daniels and Evan Bayh, also attended.
Pence said Indiana has emerged in recent years as a torch of fiscal responsibility, innovation and reform.
“This is our time to shine. But to whom much is given, much will be required,” he said. “We dare not squander this moment with complacency or self-congratulation. With so many Hoosiers hurting in this economy, we must meet this moment with resolve, determined to leave our state more prosperous, our children more prepared, and our communities and families stronger than ever before.”
After the event, Pence went to his new Statehouse office to sign paperwork that made his ascension legal.
Then he signed 15 executive orders into law. One of the first ones rescinded an order under Daniels that had moved oversight of the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board from the governor’s office to the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
But now that a Democrat has taken over the state’s top education office, Pence moved oversight back to the executive branch. Glenda Ritz defeated Republican Tony Bennett in November.
The board resolves labor disputes between teachers and school districts, and is a repository for teacher contracts around the state.
It was the first indication of how the GOP is going to handle a new Democratic state officeholder, though Pence denied it had anything to do with Ritz.
Instead the chair of the board – a former top aide to Bennett – asked for the change. The governor appoints the members of the board regardless of Monday’s executive order.
Ritz said Monday she supported the order. She said she opposed moving the board’s oversight to the Superintendent and Department of Education in 2011 because she believed the board should have autonomy from Bennett.
“(The board) should operate as a separate entity and not be swayed by anybody in the Department of Education.”
Also, Pence signed an order halting new government regulations while a review and cost-benefit analysis is under way.
State regulations are passed by executive agencies in the form of rules.
There are many caveats to the order, including rules already in process; those needed to create jobs, reduce state spending, repeal existing rules, follow federal mandates or anything related to emergencies, health or safety.
The only clear example of a rule or regulation that would be affected are those frequently proffered by the Hoosier Lottery whenever it creates a new game.
Pence also met with legislative leaders of both parties for about 30 minutes.
Republicans control both chambers.
House Democrat Leader Scott Pelath said the meeting was mostly about tone, not policy.
“We don’t need to be like Washington,” he said. “It was a very invigorating first meeting.”
Leaders said they did not discuss Pence’s proposed income tax cut or movement on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage – two issues sure to get lots of attention this year.
House Speaker Brian Bosma said the only bill discussed in any detail was one on workforce development meant to match Hoosier workers’ skills with available jobs.
“We have a lot of common goals as Hoosiers, as leaders. We’re going to have some strong disagreements but we do it in a civil manner,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne. “It was a foundation for communication.”