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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Politics & Government
5:36 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

RFRA Passes House, Heads to Governor's Desk

The Indiana House overwhelmingly passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Monday. Gov. Mike Pence says he will sign the bill into law.
Credit Andrew Downs / For WBOI News

The Indiana House Monday approved a bill that supporters call a shield protecting people of faith.  But opponents believe the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, commonly known as RFRA, a license to discriminate.

RFRA creates a judicial test for Indiana courts that ensures a government can only restrict religious practices if it has a compelling reason and does so in the least restrictive way. 

Supporters, such as Inglefield Republican Representative Tom Washburne, say the bill helps ensure Hoosiers live in harmony with each other.

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Politics & Government
5:46 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

RFRA Debate Raises Questions About LGBT Civil Rights Protection

Indiana civil rights law does not currently bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which some lawmakers want to change.
Credit Courtesy / Wikimedia Commons

The controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that’s being debated in the Indiana legislature is sparking another debate: whether state law should protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

RFRA’s supporters say the proposed law only ensures the government can’t restrict a person’s religious practices unless it has a compelling interest to do so. They believe the state’s civil rights statute qualifies as a compelling interest. 

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Politics & Government
5:08 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

Bill Would Include Guard, Reserves in Military Financial Protections

A bill currently in the Indiana Senate would give Indiana National Guard members and reservists the same financial protections as other servicemembers.
Credit Courtesy / Wikimedia Commons

Legislation approved by a Senate panel Tuesday aims to bolster financial protections for active duty National Guard members and reservists.

The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act doesn’t necessarily extend to members of the Indiana National Guard or reservists.  And the Attorney General’s office made a state-level protection bill part of its agenda for the session. 

The measure helps protect Guard members and reservists who’ve been on active duty for at least 30 days from foreclosures and default. 

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Politics & Government
4:42 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

Senate Approves Experimental Drugs for Terminally-Ill

The Indiana Senate approved a bill Tuesday allowing experimental treatments to be given to some terminally-ill patients.
Credit Courtesy / Wikimedia Commons

Senate lawmakers unanimously approved the Right to Try bill Tuesday that its sponsor says will give “hope to the hopeless.”

The Right to Try bill would allow terminally-ill patients to receive experimental drugs as long as they meet three standards.  

Valparaiso Republican Senator Ed Charbonneau, the bill’s sponsor says, first, the medications must have passed through the first of three phases in the FDA’s approval process.

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Politics & Government
4:20 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

I.D. Bill Aimed at Amish Hoosiers Passes Senate Committee

An Indiana Senate committee approved a measure Tuesday creating a new state I.D. that doesn't require a photograph. Indiana Rep. Bob Morris authored the bill.
Credit Courtesy / Indiana House Republicans

A Senate committee Tuesday easily approved legislation creating a new state I.D. that does not require a photograph. The bill is aimed at Indiana’s Amish community.

Lloyd Lambright represents a large segment of Indiana’s Amish residents.  He says some of the most conservative members will still refuse to get any kind of state identification card.  But he says for many, the barrier to getting an I.D. is the photograph that accompanies it.

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Politics & Government
4:22 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

House Committee Debates RFRA Amid Protests

Both supporters (pictured) and opponents packed the Indiana Statehouse Monday to express their opinion on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Credit Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Opponents of the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act say it’s not about religious freedom, but about legalizing discrimination.  A House committee debated the issue in a hearing Monday.

Proponents of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, say they’re worried about the government encroaching on their practice of religion.  But opponents say RFRA goes much further than simply protecting religious practices; they say it will allow private citizens to discriminate because of their religious beliefs. 

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2015 Session
12:44 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

Advocates Rally for More Public Transit Funding

Rep. Randy Truitt (R-West Lafayette) addressing mass transit advocates at the Statehouse Tuesday.
Credit Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Public transportation advocates gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday to urge lawmakers to dramatically  increase statewide funding for public transit.

The General Assembly hasn’t increased dollars in the state’s Public Mass Transportation Fund for seven  years. 

Indiana Citizens’ Alliance for Transit organizer Kim Irwin says that’s despite a 15 percent increase  in transit ridership in the last decade.

Her group wants lawmakers to increase funding to $60 million a year, up from $42.5 million in the last budget.

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Politics & Government
4:15 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Zoeller's E-Cig Recommendations Ignored By Legislature

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller asked the legislature to tax e-cigarettes and include them in the statewide smoking ban. Neither suggestion was included in the current e-cigarette bill.
Credit Courtesy / Greg Zoeller

Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s recommendations for inclusion of e-cigarettes in the state’s smoking ban almost certainly won’t be included in legislation regulating the vaping industry.

Zoeller made regulating e-cigarettes one of his priorities this session.  And while proposed legislation aims to regulate the makers and sellers of e-liquids, which are used in e-cigs, the bill does nothing regarding e-cigarettes themselves. 

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Politics & Government
4:40 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

On Wage Repeal Bill, Opponents Push for Study Committee

Pete Rimsans leads the Indiana State Building and Construction Trades Council, which is campaigning against repeal of the common construction wage.
Credit Courtesy

The Indiana House easily approved legislation repealing the state’s common construction wage, and the bill’s support in the Senate looks strong.  For the bill’s opponents, pushing it to a summer study committee could be their best hope.

Set by local boards, the common construction wage is a sort of minimum wage for public construction projects. 

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2015 Session
4:00 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Midwife Certification Bill Heads to the Indiana Senate

Indiana Rep. Don Lehe introduced a bill this session making it easier for midwives to operate in the state. The bill passed the House this week.
Credit Courtesy / Indiana House Republicans

The House this week easily approved legislation aimed at making it easier for midwives to operate legally in Indiana.  But the bill’s future is less certain in the Senate.

Legislation in 2013 established the framework for legalizing midwifery.  But the law requires midwives to have written collaborative agreements with physicians, and unwillingness by doctors to enter into those agreements derailed the state’s attempt to create a licensing process.

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