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January 23, 2013

Inaugural challenges for Gov. Pence

All of the pomp, optimism, sunshine and prose was just exactly as it should have been as Gov. Mike Pence became the 12th Indiana congressman to ascend to the state’s top executive position and the first in more than a century to do so.

Pence rhetorically reached for the torch that Gov. Mitch Daniels had passed to him on a crisp, cold Monday morning as the Indiana state flag gracefully billowed below him on the western stairway of the Statehouse. By noon he was greeting hundreds of Hoosier constituents, friends and former colleagues.

His first actions were to sign six executive orders, including one that would shift the state board overseeing teacher contract negotiations so that it reports to the governor’s office and another requires “family impact statements” that would help to ensure that “intact married families” won’t be hurt by state rules and regulations.

Reporters, sniffing for the first controversy surrounding the state’s 50th governor, were disappointed when Democrat Education Supt. Glenda Ritz signed off on the shift, noting that after years of the status quo her predecessor, Tony Bennett, had been the one to take over control of monitoring teacher contracts.

Perhaps the most eye-opening event occurred last Wednesday morning when Pence gathered his cabinet, which looked like the Republican Party. Beyond Lt. Gov. Ellspermann and Director of Personnel Anita Samuel, the cabinet was overwhelmingly white and male.

Pence huddled with legislative leaders, and as to be expected there were smiles and nods of assurance from Republicans and optimism by Democrats. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath told reporters that Pence had “struck the right tone,” explaining, “We all have important jobs for Indiana. Sometimes those jobs are to disagree and to discuss our differences. But we also have important roles [and need] to have the types of relationships where we can work together when we do agree that things are for the good of the people.”

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