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.

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.

Governor Mike Pence is making a change in leadership at the Department of Child Services, appointing a juvenile court judge as director of the embattled agency.

Lake County Superior Court judge Mary Beth Bonaventura will become the third DCS director in the last seven months.  She has spent three decades working in the juvenile division, experience Governor Pence says makes her uniquely qualified for her new role. 

Bonaventura said she’s already familiar with some of the issues plaguing DCS, including high turnover rates among case workers.

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

State lawmakers are pushing legislation that would create a financial literacy curriculum for the state, encouraging schools to teach skills such as investing, balancing a checkbook, and applying for loans. 

Supporters of the legislation say students are graduating high school without basic financial skills.

Greenwood Republican Senator Brent Waltz says that’s not a new problem.

Indiana legislators say they are working in a bipartisan way to bring all the elements of Indiana’s education and workforce development sectors together to reduce the state’s unemployment, with legislation that would establish the Indiana Career Council.

Speaker Brian Bosma, a co-sponsor of the Career Council bill, said various entities like the state’s career and technical education districts, regional economic development organizations and Ivy Tech campuses and regions are often disjointed.

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Legislation aimed at helping Indiana gaming facilities compete with other states and bolster struggling attendance cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.

Legislation unanimously approved by the Senate Public Policy committee adds mobile gaming devices to off-track betting sites and eliminates taxes on free-play coupons.  It also allows live-dealer games in racetrack casinos, something the bill’s author, Crawfordsville Republican Senator Phil Boots, says will boost job creation.

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would place stricter limits on how much ephedrine and pseudoephedrine is bought and sold in the state.   Those drugs are two of the key ingredients used in methamphetamine production.

Protesters gathering in Indianapolis Friday called for a constitutional amendment to undo the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The rally railed against the increase in political spending the decision has wrought.

The United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows unlimited political contributions from corporations.  The Court’s ruling played a significant role in Indiana’s 2012 US Senate race between Joe Donnelly and Richard Mourdock.  Millions of dollars poured into the state and dozens of ads filled the airwaves, supporting and opposing both candidates.

Legislation extensively overhauling Indiana’s criminal code passed its first legislative hurdle without interference, although its sponsors aren’t sure it will continue that way.

Lawmakers and members of the criminal justice system have spent three years working on a bill to comprehensively revise the state’s criminal code.  Among other things, it would change sentence lengths and move some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and vice versa.