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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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