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Espich to advise on issues, process

Retired lawmaker added to Pence team

– Jeff Espich wasn’t out of state government long before landing a new gig as Gov.-elect Mike Pence’s senior adviser for legislative affairs.

Espich served 40 years in the Indiana House but decided not to seek re-election this year.

He represented Hoosiers in Allen, Wells and Grant counties.

His term officially ended last week when newly elected legislators were sworn in.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Espich said. “Hopefully I can be some help to (Pence). His agenda is really to a great extent following up on where Mitch Daniels took the state, and I think I can assist.”

During his legislative career, Espich focused on tax and fiscal issues, including serving as chairman of both the House Ways and Means Committee and the State Budget Committee.

“Jeff Espich has a record of accomplishment and integrity from his years of leadership in the Indiana General Assembly,” Pence said.

“His knowledge of the budget and the legislative process will make him an invaluable addition to our legislative team. We are humbled to have a man of his caliber join our administration.”

Espich said the job is a bit undefined as Pence doesn’t take office until Jan. 14.

“Generally I will be helping advise the governor on working with the legislature on issues and working with the legislature directly to build relationships,” he said.

The ethics behind the job are a bit murky considering a one-year ban passed in 2010 prevents legislators from lobbying for a period of time after their departure.

Criticism then focused on a number of lawmakers leaving the General Assembly and immediately using the established relationships with their colleagues to lobby on a variety of issues.

The law specifically says former lawmakers cannot be registered as a lobbyist or be “employed as a legislative liaison” for one year after their departure.

Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault said there is no intent for Espich to be lobbying, saying he will be advising Pence on strategy.

She also said Pence will hire a specifically designated legislative liaison per the statutory definition.

Espich said he doesn’t believe the rule applies to him because he is a government employee, not a lobbyist in the traditional sense working for special interests.

In addition to his work in state government, Espich is a self-employed small businessman, serving as director of the State Bank of Markle and as a member of the Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

He is a U.S. Army veteran and a graduate of Indiana University School of Business Administration.

nkelly@jg.net

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