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.

State lawmakers hope the third time’s the charm as they seek to eliminate the sale and use of synthetic drugs, often referred to as bath salts.

This year marks the third consecutive session with legislation outlawing synthetic drugs.  But Indianapolis Republican Jim Merritt – who has shepherded the effort in the Senate all three years – says state lawmakers and law enforcement know much more now and believe they’ve hit on a lasting solution. 

The House Ways and Means committee approved the House GOP budget proposal Monday and is expected to move the budget bill to the full House Tuesday.  But Democrats say there’s still more work to do.

The House Republican budget does not include Governor Mike Pence’s proposed 10% income tax cut. But House Democratic leaders are promising the cut will get an up or down vote on the House floor.

The House GOP budget, which will be publicly presented to the Ways and Means committee Monday, includes significant increases in education and roads funding.  But it leaves out Governor Pence’s tax cut, and does not assume there will be any taxpayer refund at the end of the budget cycle. 

Senate President Pro Tem David Long said Indiana needs to take the lead in assembling a constitutional convention of the states in an effort to rein in the federal government’s power.   Long’s effort aims to produce an amendment to the Untied States Constitution.

To amend the Constitution in a state-initiated way, two-thirds of state legislatures must agree to convene a constitutional convention, at which the amendment is drafted.  Three-fourths of the states must then approve the amendment for it to be ratified. 

Legislation aimed at helping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway renovate the historic track and make up for recent attendance losses is headed to the Senate floor.

As lawmakers work to create the Indiana Career Council, meant to coordinate the state’s workforce development efforts, they’re placing a special emphasis on addressing unemployment among recent veterans. 

The unemployment rate for Indiana’s post-9-11 veterans is 20%, more than double that of the average Hoosier.  Indiana National Guard Employment Coordination Program manager Catalina Carrasco said part of the reason so many young veterans are unemployed is a disconnect between veterans and employers.

Indiana’s highest-performing high school and college students could get some of their student loans paid back by the government if they teach in some of the state’s neediest subjects and areas.

Under legislation proposed by Indianapolis Democratic Representative Justin Moed, the state would pay back nine thousand dollars in student loans after a graduate of an Indiana college teaches three years in a Hoosier school. 

Indiana state senators are used to hearing from special guests during the legislative session, but Thursday lawmakers had an out of this world experience as NASA Commander and Hoosier native Kevin Ford addressed the Senate from aboard the International Space Station.

Indiana’s voucher program could be significantly expanded by loosened eligibility requirements under legislation being considered by the General Assembly.

The state’s current voucher program is available to any student who spends at least one year in public school beyond kindergarten and has an annual income of $64,000 or less for a family of four.  Proposed legislation would remove the public school attendance requirement.  It would also allow voucher recipients who meet the initial income level to keep their voucher if their income goes up to as much as $127,000 a year. 

A Republican state senator wants each state agency to set aside 10% of its contracts each year for veteran-owned small businesses, a move supporters say the will help reduce veteran unemployment.

Governor Mike Pence signed an executive order his first day in office establishing a goal of procuring three percent of state contracts for veteran-owned businesses. 

Proposed legislation would expand that to 10%, something American Legion state commander Richard Jewell says could help reduce veteran unemployment, which is double the state rate.