Confusion over Pence’s approach to tort reform continues

During a news conference Thursday, Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence held his “Roadmap for Indiana” in the air, pointed to it and said it “will be enough for us to focus on” in terms of his 2013 legislative agenda.

Later that day, state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said he’s carrying Senate Bill 88, a tort reform measure that would require the losing side to pay all legal fees in civil litigation because Pence’s team asked him to. That “loser pays” proposal is nowhere to be found on Pence’s roadmap.

So is tort reform part of Pence’s legislative agenda?

On Thursday, his spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.

On Friday, Pence cancelled interviews with multiple media outlets, including the Courier & Press. But he spoke with the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly, who tweeted that he did not answer a direct question about whether he is pushing tort reform. “Our legislative agenda is a work in progress,” he said.

The Indianapolis Star’s Mary Beth Schneider reported in Friday’s paper that Pence’s incoming chief of staff, Bill Smith, said “there’s a difference between having a focus on something and having a position on things” — an implication that Delph’s tort reform is just one of many ideas to come from a legislator that Pence might support.

But Delph told The Star that “a member of Pence’s staff asked me to do it.”

“This was not on my radar till they asked me to do it. I’m just trying to be supportive of the governor-elect,” Delph said.

Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault on Friday afternoon declined to address Delph’s bill specifically and said the governor-elect’s team will roll out his legislative agenda once he takes office next week.

“We’ve talked to a lot of different legislators about a lot of pieces of legislation. We’ll be prepared week one to start talking about specifics of that legislative agenda,” she said.

Delph is also the lead author of one of Pence’s very top priorities: A bill that would cut Indiana’s individual income tax from 3.4 percent to 3.06 percent.