Thursday, August 16, 2012

Would a Governor Pence Seize the Opportunity to Reorganize and Streamline Indiana Government?

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to attend the Indiana Leadership Forum, where Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence was the featured speaker.  I have known Pence for a number of years.  Pence grew up in Columbus while I hailed from nearby Madison.  Our paths first crossed briefly at Hanover College.  Later we both attended law school at Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis, he being one class ahead of me  Pence's political views became well-known by the weekly conservative cartoons he drew for the Dictum, the law school newspaper.  (Pence is a skilled cartoonist...a fact not many people know.) I was editor of the Dictum and wrote a conservative political column for that publication. 

Congressman Mike Pence
There is no doubt that Pence is a true believer when it comes to being a fiscal and social conservative.   But people who are turned off by his political views make a mistake when they also assume he's some sort of ogre, a mean SOB who want the less fortunate and non-Christians to suffer.  Pence was very well-liked by his classmates, even by the liberal students.  I found him to not only to be intelligent, but also extremely engaging and quick witted.  He knows how to use humor and self-deprecating humor in particular.

In attending the conference yesterday though I was interested in seeing what type of person Mike Pence had become since leaving law school.  Although his political career fizzled initially, Pence was eventually elected to Congress and quickly challenged more moderate Republicans.  The challenge succeeded and Pence was elected to the leadership of the U.S. House.  He played a major role in pushing the Republican caucus in the House to the right.

Being governor though is far different than being a legislator.   A governor's responsibility is to not only to set a legislative agenda and balance the books, but also to act as chief administrator of the state's bureaucracy.  While Pence has the advantage of following in the footsteps of the very popular Mitch Daniels, I thought very possibly he'd fall into the trap of simply campaigning with the promise to extend the Daniels legacy.

During his speech though Pence made it clear, that while he admired what Daniels had done in his eight years, he would be his own man and would make a priority of revolutionizing how Indiana's often unwieldy and inefficient bureaucracy operates.

That was music to my ears.  While I very much liked Governor Daniels' legislative agenda and his steadfast determination to hold the line on spending, especially on the perpetual increases in education spending, I always felt Daniels' Achilles' heel was administration and oversight of the agencies.  When Daniels turned to making state government more efficient, he naturally drifted to privatization, a reform that first became popular with conservatives in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, the last two decades have taught us the limit of privatization.  Giving a business a monopoly to provide services to the public with a long-term contract, does not result in efficiencies...a fact the Medicaid debacle proved all too well.   Not every government service is done better by the private sector, another fact proved by Medicaid privatization.  Outside of Daniels' interest in privatization, he didn't seem terribly interested in state government reorganization.  Worse yet, many of the agencies suffered from poor leadership while warnings from whistleblowers about problems at several state agencies went unheeded by the Governor's staff until they blew up onto the front page of the newspaper or the evening news.

According to a poll just released today, Pence has an 18 point lead over John Gregg.  Assuming that lead holds up, and I think it will, the Congressman turned Governor will be presented with a unique opportunity to build on Daniels' legacy by doing a comprehensive restructuring and reorganization of the state's bureaucracy.

It is a task that needs to be done.  I can give as an example, one I know best, is how Indiana regulates players in the real estate industry. As former head of Indiana's Title Insurance Division, we had to deal with a number of agencies when it came to regulating the real estate transaction.  We regulated title insurance agents and companies, though most of our work involved regulating the closing transaction.  The Attorney General regulates appraisers and real estate agents.  The Department of Local Government Finance regulates mortgage lenders.  The Secretary of State regulates mortgage brokers. Then you have federal and state law enforcement officials who might be involved if the real estate transaction involves fraud or some other crime. 

The current regulatory structure leads to horrible inefficiencies.  You often had investigatory work being duplicated, multiple files on the same matter, or the information not being shared between the agencies.  Then you had a problem of the lack of expertise.  I met with a couple new attorneys from the Secretary of State's office about an investigation of a broker who they were convinced had paired up with a title insurance agent to do something unethical if not illegal at a real estate closing.  They were very sincere in their efforts, but it was clear they just didn't have the experience necessary to understand how real estate closings in Indiana work.  In actuality what the broker and agent had done was common practice and certainly not unethical or illegal.  That scenario was repeated with law enforcement officials and prosecutors who simply don't have the experience to understand real estate enough to prosecute individuals for mortgage fraud.

This situation could be addressed by Indiana establishing a Real Estate Commission, putting the regulators of these real estate players into one agency.  That would help eliminate all the inefficiencies involved in real estate regulation.  Further, a REC would have the comprehensive expertise to offer assistance to county prosecutors wanting to go after mortgage fraud and other real estate crimes in their communities. If Indiana adopted this type of reform, it would be THE state leader in rethinking regulation of real estate.

FYI, I've written on the need for real estate reform before:
Sunday, January 4, 2009, The Forelosure Crisis; Real Estate Regulatory Reform
Saturday, November, 1, 2008, A Real Estate Regulatory Agenda for the Next Indiana Attorney General  
Sunday, October 5, 2008, Consolidating Real Estate Regulation in Indiana - Where Do the Governor and Attorney General Candidates Stand on the Issue?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008, Real Estate Reform - Why Indiana Needs It
That, of course, is only one example of possible government reorganization in a Pence administration.

For Pence to succeed as an administrator, he needs to be willing to take a different approach than his predecessor.   Part of that not only involves enlisting people with creative minds uncolored by self-interest in making a buck off state government, but also enlisting the state employee workforce a full partner in the reorgnization effort.   A Governor Pence needs to be thorough in interviewing individuals being considered for department heads and needs to insist that his staff listen to and act on the complaints of state employee whistleblowers ...and protect those individuals' jobs when they risk their jobs by blowing the whistle.

Can Pence succeed as an administrator and lead a revolutionary reorganization of Indiana state government.  I think he can. Whether he will is a story yet to be told.

7 comments:

Gary R. Welsh said...

His campaign has been co-opted by all of the corrupt elements who've been running state government for the past 8 years. He's even accepted contributions from illegal gambling sources by washing them through the Republican Governors Association. He has zero leadership experience, and he's never passed a single piece of legislation in all of his years in Congress. He's a good talker, but it takes more than that to run a state effectively and efficiently. He's far lessed prepared to govern this state than Daniels was, and he's turned control of his campaign over to the worst elements of the Daniels' years.

Society of Socrates said...

Paul: I admire your courage to tell thing as they are. Your insight in state government has a ring of truth in it. But there is no glory to reorganization of state agencies. Do you remember what happen to human services with the reorg them into FSSA? You are correct in limits of privaization in making program and services more effective. But Gary Welsh make a good point about Mike Pense. As an executive Pense has no track record to speak of. He is a find speaker and does have a sense of humor. I am not saying he could not grow into the job as a Governor. But we need someone to hit the streets running. Just my opinion, I have no dog in this hunt. I retired from state government in 2002 after 23 years of service.

Paul K. Ogden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul K. Ogden said...

I'm not sure having administrative experience is always that important. After 8 years, I think I can safely say the biggest weakness in the Governor Daniels' legacy is the one area you would have thought he would have been the strongest at going in - administration and oversight of the agencies. Outside of some misguided privatization proposals, he seemed to have little interest in substantial changes to how state government operates. And the oversight was simply not there. Time and time again, state employees alerted Daniels' staff of problems at the agencies, and instead of conducting an investigation, the whistleblowers were treated as troublemakers. Then eventually the issues with the agencies blew up and became an embarassment for the Governor, an embarassment that was entirely avoidable.

Gary, I too worry about those forces coming in and trying to co-opt a Pence administration. They start with large campaign contributions and try to wiggle their way into transition positions. But until the Pence administration starts, I don't think you can conclude for sure they have co-opted Pence. I know we all watched it happen with Greg Ballard, but Pence is not Ballard...not even close. Pence is a smart, confident person and he is unlikely to be led around like Ballard is. He needs to have strong advisers around him, people willing to stand up to those forces that will try to infiltrate the administration for their own profit and the profit of their friends.

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David Titsworth said...

I agree with shale watson. India is most popular country in the world. Is it okay that my brother will apply for mortgage fraud solicitors there in India even though he is a US citizen?

Jonas Smith said...

That is some inspirational stuff. Never knew that opinions could be this varied.
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