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.

Flickr / Mike Pence

Governor Mike Pence has made his pick to fill a vacancy on the Indiana Court of Appeals – the first such appointment Pence has made in his two and a half years in office.  His selection, announced Friday, is Marion County Judge Robert Altice.

Altice has been through this process before – three times he’s been nominated to fill an Appeals Court vacancy.  And as Altice put it, the third time was the charm. 

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Governor Mike Pence Thursday proudly touted Indiana’s continued fiscal strength as he closed the books on the fiscal year.  But that strength has Democrats wondering why Pence continues to order state agencies to cut their budgets.

Indiana finished its 2015 fiscal year with a $210 million surplus, helping increase budget reserves to more than $2.1 billion.  But state agencies reverted $133 million, meaning if the governor hadn’t required agencies to send any money back, the state still would’ve had a surplus. 

Courtesy / Dan Coats' Office

Indiana Senator Dan Coats says he’s “profoundly skeptical” of the nuclear agreement announced Tuesday between Iran and a group of nations led by the U.S. It’s an agreement on which Congress will have a say.

Coats, who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, says he will carefully review the details of the deal before rendering a final opinion.  But he says he’s harkening back to a deal President Clinton made with North Korea – an agreement which ultimately resulted in that country obtaining nuclear weapons.

Courtesy / State of Indiana

A Department of Child Services case manager say she’s handling way too many cases, putting children’s lives at risk, because the agency won’t hire enough people.  Now, the ACLU is taking the state to court over the issue.

Indiana law mandates that DCS must have enough caseworkers so that one employee doesn’t supervise more than 17 children at a time.  Case manager Mary Price says her caseload is 43 children – too many, she says, to effectively handle. 

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.

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