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’s common construction wage is about to become extinct after Governor Mike Pence signed a bill repealing the wage Wednesday.

The common construction wage is a kind of minimum wage for construction workers on public projects.  The wage is set for each project by a local board. 

In a statement announcing he signed the bill repealing the common wage, Governor Pence says wages should be set by the marketplace, not government bureaucracy.  He says repealing the system puts taxpayers first. 

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Governor Mike Pence was able to declare almost total victory Thursday in the wake of the 2015 session despite early skepticism from the General Assembly for much of his agenda.

There were several items on the governor’s agenda that lawmakers were at least hesitant to fully support.  That includes a significant boost to charter school funding, dollars for next year’s state Bicentennial celebration, a major investment in Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative, along with the proposed balanced budget amendment to the state constitution.

Screencap / Gregg for Governor (YouTube)

Indiana’s 2016 gubernatorial race could be a repeat of 2012 after Democrat John Gregg Thursday announced he’ll run for governor again.  But Gregg might have competition for the nomination this time.

Legislative leaders say an aggressive push by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation likely won’t influence final negotiations over how much money to put into the governor’s Regional Cities Initiative.  The initiative is meant to help foster greater collaboration in economic development between communities around the state.

The governor’s proposed budget puts $42 million a year towards the IEDC project.  The House and Senate scaled that back to $10 million a year. 

The Indiana Department of Transportation has new leadership after Commissioner Karl Browning abruptly resigned Wednesday. Gov. Mike Pence won’t say why the longtime official is leaving.

Karl Browning has led INDOT since 2013, and previously served as Commissioner from 2006 to 2009. He submitted his resignation via email to the governor Wednesday morning, saying he was proud of his accomplishments but that it was “time to move on.” 

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

As lawmakers negotiate the final details of gaming legislation, the future of live dealers at racetrack casinos remains one of the most controversial provisions.  Racino advocates made a final public plea Wednesday.

When the gaming bill left the House, it allowed racinos to replace some electronic games with tables that have live dealers.  The Senate altered that arrangement, instead allowing racinos to add live dealers beginning in 2021. 

Courtesy / State of Indiana

Indiana’s unemployment rate fell in March to its lowest level in five months, but the state’s private sector also lost jobs last month.

The Hoosier unemployment rate fell one tenth of a percent to 5.8 percent in March, the second month in a row the rate went down. 

But that drop may not be good news: the state’s private sector lost 800 jobs last month, fueled by huge losses – more than 5,000 – in the professional and business services sector. 

Courtesy / Indiana Retired Teachers Association

Members of the public Friday got their last chance to weigh in on the budget bill this session.  Retiree advocates made a plea for more spending even as a gloomy new revenue forecast has lawmakers looking to cut money out of their budget proposals.

The so-called “13th check” is an additional yearly benefit for retired public employees and teachers.  The amount can range from $150-$450. 

Courtesy / Indiana House Republicans

The Senate Wednesday narrowly approved a bill eliminating the state’s common construction wage.  Legislators spent more than three hours over the past two days debating the issue of repealing Indiana’s minimum wage for construction workers on public projects.

Opponents of the bill like Portage Democrat Karen Tallian note that the common wage helps support job training programs and ensures public projects are properly built by well-trained, highly paid workers.

Indiana Senate Republicans

For the second year in a row, the Senate shot down a bill regulating Indiana’s high-fenced deer hunting preserves. 

The legality of the state’s high-fenced hunting facilities has been the subject of legislative debate and  court proceedings for a decade. This year’s legislation would have limited the industry to the four  existing preserves and imposed significant regulation. 

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