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.

Courtesy / Wikimedia Commons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg raised more money in the first half of 2015 than Governor Mike Pence.  And at least one political scientist says, even with the election more than a year away, that could have an impact on how the race shapes up.

Former House Speaker John Gregg managed to out-fundraise the incumbent through June by a little more than $100,000. 

Courtesy / State of Indiana

Lieutenant governors from around the country descended on Indiana this week for a national conference.  Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann says the event can be a valuable tool to share best practices and even prepare for higher office.

Ellspermann says the National Lieutenant Governors Association was the first conference she attended after taking office. 

She says its annual meetings are an important opportunity to meet with a strong group of bipartisan colleagues, sharing ideas and promoting causes.

Courtesy / State of Indiana

It’s been nearly six months since HIP 2.0 was approved, and the state has enrolled nearly 300,000 Hoosiers in the health insurance program.  More than a dozen health care advocacy groups and insurers sang the praises of the program at a public forum Thursday.

As of July 1st, a little more than 289,000 residents have signed up for health care coverage through HIP 2.0.  186 thousand of them never had health insurance before.  And 70 percent of enrollees are using HIP Plus, which requires contributions to a health savings account. 

Indiana’s highly-publicized First Church of Cannabis is going to court, hoping to stop the state from enforcing marijuana laws when it comes to the use of cannabis in its church services.  The church’s attorney will use the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA to help his case.

RFRA creates a legal standard that says government must have a compelling reason to restrict someone’s religious practice and do so in the least burdensome way possible. 

Courtesy / Office of the Attorney General

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says the Hoosier State will join a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water rule.  Zoeller says he’s concerned about the potential cost to the state’s agricultural industry.

The EPA recently finalized a rule broadening the definition of “waters of the United States” – that is, which bodies of water fall under federal regulation.  The term would now include small bodies of water, including streams, ponds, and drainage ditches.  Regulating those types of small waterways has always been left up to the states. 

Courtesy / Indiana Dept. of Agriculture

The Indiana Department of Agriculture this week will announce the launch of Indiana Grown, a program promoting products made and produced in the Hoosier State.

The idea of a “Made in Indiana” brand isn’t new.  But state Department of Agriculture Director Ted McKinney says the previous version was underfunded and understaffed and, thus, ineffective. 

McKinney says the new program, Indiana Grown, is much more robust, with funding from the Department of Agriculture – and Hoosiers can already see results.

Courtesy / ACLU

Indiana’s religious freedom law known as RFRA will be used for the first time in a suit challenging a new state law that bars sex offenders from churches.

A new law that went into effect Wednesday says people convicted of sex offenses against children cannot enter school property.  And ACLU-Indiana legal director Ken Falk says because that phrase “school property” is broadly written, it could mean that offenders can’t attend religious services if the church is next to a school. 

Courtesy / Drug Enforcement Administration

The state Supreme Court Thursday heard arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of Indiana’s law banning synthetic drugs.  The suit involves powers given to the Board of Pharmacy to create emergency rules.

Lawmakers in 2012 gave the Board of Pharmacy rulemaking authority to add more synthetic drugs to the list of banned substances, in the hopes of keeping up with synthetic drug manufacturers.  Two men charged with dealing synthetic drugs challenged the law. 

Courtesy / Indiana Election Division

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday upheld the constitutionality of an independent redistricting commission in Arizona, a system that keeps the redrawing of legislative maps out of the legislature’s hands.  That decision could have a major impact on Indiana as lawmakers prepare to examine ways to take some of the politics out of electoral redistricting.

Indiana legislative leaders – both Republican and Democrat – who’ve long supported redistricting reform overcame a major hurdle this year by gaining support for a redistricting study committee. 

Flickr User / Tracy O

Hoosier businesses and individuals who owe back taxes to the state will have an opportunity to pay what they owe, without a penalty, this fall.  The governor Monday announced a start date for the state’s tax amnesty program.

Indiana conducted its first tax amnesty program in 2005, collecting about $244 million in back taxes.  Those who participated in that program will be ineligible to take advantage of a new tax amnesty window, open from September 15 to November 16. 

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