Gov. Mike Pence was dealt his first loss Thursday when a state senator gave up his efforts to push a “loser pays” tort reform bill that was part of the Republican’s first-year legislative agenda.
Sen. Mike Delph, the Carmel Republican who was carrying the measure on Pence’s behalf, filed a motion to pull the bill from further consideration this year. He said he will focus instead on the governor’s proposal to lower Indiana’s income tax.
“I went and spoke with the governor’s office and we agreed it would probably be best to withdraw it and revisit the issue sometime in the future,” Delph said.
The bill would have required the losing side in all civil litigation to pay the winner’s attorney fees and other costs – an idea championed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but that Indiana-based business groups have not sought.
The issue proved tricky for Pence. His staff asked Delph to carry the measure on the governor’s behalf – but since then, Pence has steadfastly refused to address on it.
His press secretary, Kara Brooks, said “no” when asked if the governor’s office would react to Delph’s decision. Pence’s staff has similarly answered other questions about the roposal in recent weeks.
Pence was asked about the bill on the WFYI-Indianapolis television program “Indiana Lawmakers,” and said only that his campaign’s “Roadmap for Indiana” – which does not include tort reform – “was by no means intended to be exhaustive.”
Delph is also the lead author of Pence’s proposal to lower Indiana’s individual income tax rate from 3.4 percent to 3.06 percent.
A co-author is Sen. Brent Steele, the Bedford Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the tort reform bill had been assigned. Delph said Steele opposed the tort reform proposal.
“I didn’t want to put him in an awkward spot, and I know the governor doesn’t want to put him in an awkward spot – especially when he’s one of the co-authors of the tax cut proposal,” Delph said.
Delph said his focus will be on pushing that tax cut for Pence. “That’s his top priority,” Delph said, “and that’s my top priority to try to help him.”