Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

(Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Today is the last day for Hoosiers to request a mail-in ballot for the Nov. 3 election.

(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Gov. Eric Holcomb insists there is no need to reimpose statewide COVID-19 restrictions.

(Courtesy of Sen. Braun's office)

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s willingness to overturn abortion rights was not a “litmus test” for him.

(Courtesy of the governor's office)

Indiana will launch a settlement arbitration tool for Hoosier landlords and renters as it braces for a flood of evictions when the state’s eviction moratorium ends Aug. 14.

(Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Common Cause Indiana and the Indiana NAACP are suing Indiana in federal court over what they say is its “unjustifiably early” deadline to return absentee vote-by-mail ballots.

Justin Hicks/WVPE

Gov. Eric Holcomb reversed course Friday – the executive order establishing a statewide mask mandate will include no criminal penalty.

That comes after significant pressure over the mandate from some Republican lawmakers and local law enforcement officials.

Holcomb emphasized in his announcement Wednesday that the order wouldn’t focus on enforcement.

“The mask police will not be patrolling Hoosier streets,” Holcomb said.

(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Gov. Eric Holcomb didn’t shed any more light Monday on how businesses can be reasonably expected to enforce new COVID-19 restrictions as they’re allowed to reopen.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Indiana’s syringe exchange programs will get “another year of certainty” after a bill extending them was sent to the governor Thursday. 

State law would eliminate Indiana’s nine syringe exchange programs after July of 2021. And after the Senate killed a bill earlier this session to permanently extend them, many worried the programs were running out of time.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Indiana lawmakers are trying to ensure low-income families whose children get a paid internship aren’t penalized when it comes to government benefits. 

Jasmine Burditt works for RISE Indy, an education advocacy group. She says Indiana has been emphasizing work-based learning for a few years – things like internships and apprenticeships. But she says government benefit programs haven’t adapted to that model.

Ryan Mears/Facebook

A Senate committee approved a bill Tuesday that retaliates against Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears over his decision not to prosecute simple marijuana possession.

The measure empowers the attorney general to take over those cases.

The bill says if a local prosecutor makes a policy decision not to prosecute certain crimes, the Indiana Attorney General can appoint a special prosecutor to do so and charge the county to pay for it.

Parvonay Stover represents the AG.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

A bill to ban drivers from holding cell phones while driving unanimously passed a House committee Wednesday.

The legislation, a priority of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s, now heads to the House floor.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Gov. Eric Holcomb proposed a new plan to free up state dollars for teacher pay in his State of the State address Tuesday. That plan could be implemented this year – but Holcomb wants to wait for 2021.

Republicans insist that further efforts to boost educator salaries must wait until the 2021 budget session. Holcomb’s new plan (targeted for next year) would use one-time dollars to pay down part of a teacher pension fund.

In turn, $50 million a year will be generated to redirect to teacher pay,” Holcomb says.

Courtesy of Weinzapful Campaign

The race for Indiana Attorney General has a new contender.

Former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel announced Tuesday he will seek the Democratic nomination for AG next year.

That office is getting increased attention in the 2020 election cycle after current Attorney General Curtis Hill was accused of sexual misconduct by five women.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Indiana’s unemployment rate remained at a nearly two decade low in October.

Indiana hit 3.2 percent unemployment in September, then remained there in October. That’s the lowest rate since December 2000. And it’s now been seven months since the unemployment rate got worse.

But the Hoosier State has lost about 5,200 total jobs this year. If that trend continues through the end of 2019, it would be the first time in seven years Indiana lost jobs overall in a calendar year.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles says it won’t turn over Hoosiers’ driver’s license information to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Trump administration wants states to hand over that information after federal courts denied its push to add a citizenship question to the upcoming census. Nebraska recently became the first state to comply with the White House directive.

The BMV said it received the Census Bureau’s request and “at this time” has declined to provide the driver’s license data.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is creating a new procedure for people to change the gender on their driver’s license.

The agency will hold a public meeting Monday where people can comment on the proposed rule change.

The BMV has allowed people to change the gender listed on their driver’s license since 2009. All someone had to do is get a form signed by their physician.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

A state representative wants to lower the age limit to serve in the Indiana House and Senate to 18 years old.

The state constitution sets the age limit to serve in the Indiana Senate at 25 years old, 21 years old for the House. A constitutional amendment proposed by Rep. Chris Chyung (D-Dyer) would change the limits to 18.

Megan Stoner is a Republican activist who’s been working on this issue for a few years.

“When we have more young Hoosiers as elected officials, we will have fresh ideas, a young Hoosier spirit embodied within the Statehouse,” Stoner says.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Does removing a GPS tracker from your car – even if police put it there – mean you stole it?

That’s what the state argued in a case heard Thursday by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Warrick County Sheriff’s officers got a warrant last year to put a GPS tracker on Derek Heuring’s car because they thought he was a drug dealer. After a while, the tracker stopped transmitting. And when police went to replace it, they couldn’t find it on the car.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Both Republicans and Democrats had something to tout after Indiana’s 2019 municipal elections.

Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics director Andrew Downs says both political parties could “spin” results in their favor. Republicans, he says, can point to victories in mayor’s races across the state – the GOP captured 70 such seats, the most ever.

“And that’s good because theoretically volunteers and money follow those victories,” Downs says.

ITB495/Flickr

State lawmakers are exploring the use of cameras to catch speeding motorists in highway construction zones.

Efforts in recent years to legalize their use haven’t gotten far in the General Assembly. That’s as Indiana highway work zone crashes doubled in the last six years, heading into 2019.

Daniel Brown leads Indiana Constructors Inc., a trade association for road construction companies. He says speed cameras have reduced speeding and crashes in other states.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

The passage rate for the state’s bar exam continues to struggle, with only about 60 percent of prospective attorneys making the grade.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson wants to reassure Hoosiers that their votes will be secure when they go to the polls.

Arizona and Illinois had their voter registration systems breached in 2016, putting states across the country on alert, including Indiana. Connie Lawson says the state has invested in detection and prevention systems. She says a private cybersecurity firm will monitor attempts to infiltrate state voter databases – scans, she says, that happen all the time.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Secretary of State Connie Lawson says Indiana legislators wouldn’t provide funding for election security measures at the level she wanted.

Still, Lawson says Hoosiers should have confidence their votes are secure.

About two-thirds of Indiana counties use electronic voting machines that experts say should include paper audit trails. The General Assembly this year appropriated $10 million in the new state budget for election security, which will pay to add those paper trails to just 10 percent of the machines that need them by next year.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

There are new allegations from the women suing Attorney General Curtis Hill and the state over accusations Hill groped them last year.

Three legislative staffers – Samantha Lozano, Gabrielle McLemore, and Niki DaSilva – and Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Munster) sued Curtis Hill and the state earlier this year. They level allegations of sexual harassment and employment retaliation.

A new filing in that case claims Lozano reported “unwelcome and inappropriate advances” by a male member of the General Assembly to the House Democratic chief of staff this past spring.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) became the first Democrat to announce a 2020 bid for Attorney General Wednesday.

Democrats are hoping to win a race for the office for the first time in more than two decades.

Tallian, an attorney, has served in the Indiana Senate since 2005. She’s been a leader in her caucus on foreclosure and pension issues. And she’s perhaps best known by many as the General Assembly’s fiercest advocate for marijuana legalization.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Family members of older Hoosiers who they say have been taken advantage of urged lawmakers to better protect seniors.

Lawmakers took testimony on the issue Monday in a legislative study commission. They heard stories of adult children who’d stolen from their older parents and used the power of attorney they’d been given to restrict other family members’ access to those parents.

Rebecca Pryor works with a state task force on adult guardianships. She recommends court monitoring of adult guardians.

File Photo: Brandon Smith/IPB News

Indiana House and Senate Republican leadership want to insert themselves into a federal lawsuit against Attorney General Curtis Hill and the state.

The lawsuit involves Hill’s alleged groping last year of a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers.

The four women filed the suit earlier this year. They accuse Curtis Hill of sexual harassment and battery – and they accuse the state of employment discrimination. That includes sexist or inappropriate comments allegedly made by lawmakers of both parties.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg issued a generational call to arms Thursday as he addressed the Young Democrats of America’s national convention.

It was Buttigieg’s first Indianapolis campaign stop since he officially launched his presidential bid.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Young Democrats say faith in politics is a critical tool in the path forward for their party and the country. That's part of the discussion at the Young Democrats of America national convention in Indianapolis.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Most of the nearly 300 new laws crafted by the General Assembly this year take effect Monday.

That includes a new state spending plan, child welfare measures, scooter regulations and criminal justice matters.

State Budget

The new two-year, $34 billion state budget largely goes into effect July 1. The majority of that is K-12 education, which received a more than $500 million increase. And the Department of Child Services will get a little less money than it’s been working with.

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