News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 18, 2012

Miller sworn in as Indiana state senator

By Maureen Hayden
CNHI

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s newest state senator didn’t have wait to long before his official duties kicked in.

As he was sworn into office Tuesday by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker, state Sen. Pete Miller had a stack of email from constituents waiting for him.

Typical was the one from a woman in his district who had a question about how the state administers its federally funded Medicaid dollars.

Miller, a Republican from Avon who left state government to fill a vacancy created by a string of unexpected events, seemed confident he knew the answer — or at least knew whom to ask.

“It’s one advantage I have, I know the state agencies well,” Miller said.

In early April, Miller was selected in a Republican caucus vote in his district (which covers Hendricks and Putnam counties) to replace longtime state Sen. Connie Lawson, who left the Senate in March to become Secretary of State.

Gov. Mitch Daniels picked her to replace the disgraced former Secretary of State Charlie White, who was forced out of office after he was convicted of felonies related to voter fraud.

While Lawson moved from the legislative branch to the executive branch, Miller moved in the opposite direction.

He’s the former head of the government efficiency and financial planning division of the Office of Management and Budget, set up by Daniels not long after he took office.

Miller’s job involved honing in on how state dollars were spent, and looking for ways to either spend fewer or to spend them better. Miller’s  team has likened it to wielding a scalpel to cut fat.  Democratic critics of Daniels said it was more like an ax.

Miller has been shielded somewhat from Statehouse politics when he worked for the OMB, but he’s not new to the political process.

He’s served as chairman of the Hendricks County Republican Party and he’s Fourth District chairman for the state GOP.

Miller’s children, Justin, 13, Jessica, 10, and Brandon, 8, attended the swearing-in ceremony and had their own evaluation of the father’s new role. “It’s cool,” said Justin.

Miller would like to get a seat on a Senate committee that deals with finances, but he’ll have to wait until late fall for the legislature’s Organization Day to see if that happens.

Miller also has to get over another hurdle. Tuesday’s swearing-in means he’ll serve the six-and-half months remaining on Lawson’s term. But he to has convince Republican caucus members to vote for him a second time after the May primary so he can be eligible to run in the November election.

Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.