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.

Courtesy / Indiana Secretary of State

Citizen advocacy organizations are gearing up for redistricting reform as lawmakers prepare to study changes to the way Indiana draws its legislative districts.

Lawmakers this summer will begin a two-year study committee to examine the possibility of redistricting reform.  The committee will include non-legislators, but the statute creating the study mandates that those so-called “lay” members must have experience, training, or education in redistricting. 

Rachel Morello / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Despite constant clashes with Governor Mike Pence over the last two years, State Superintendent Glenda Ritz says her decision to run for governor isn’t personal; it’s because of significant differences with Pence over how to move Indiana forward.  On Thursday, Ritz officially became the third person to enter the Democratic primary, calling herself the “best candidate” to beat the governor.

Courtesy / Indiana Bicentennial Commission

Indiana is gearing up for a celebration of its 200-year history, and former Congressman Lee Hamilton says the upcoming bicentennial party can’t just be about the state’s past, but also about its future.  He helped announce the creation of the Bicentennial Visioning Project on Friday.

Hamilton – who co-chairs the Indiana Bicentennial Commission – says he wants the state’s Bicentennial Celebration to be about trying to make Indiana’s future a better one. 

Courtesy / State of Indiana

“Worse than doing nothing” – that’s how critics describe Indiana’s new energy efficiency effort crafted by Governor Mike Pence and the General Assembly.  But the governor insists the program will keep more money in Hoosiers’ pockets.

Environmental and consumer advocacy groups say the new energy efficiency program is going to drive up costs for residential consumers.  Under the approved legislation, each utility company must develop its own energy efficiency program, and they can raise rates to cover any revenue they lose because of decreased energy usage.

Courtesy / Indiana Senate Republicans

After two years of unsuccessfully putting into practice a law regulating midwives, the General Assembly enacted a follow-up bill aimed at finally making the system work.

Legislators crafted a law in 2013 to regulate midwives, including the requirement that, to legally practice, midwives must have a signed, written collaborative agreement with a doctor.  But the Professional Licensing Board – charged with fully developing midwife regulations – couldn’t find a doctor willing to sign an agreement, and gave up creating the midwifery license. 

Courtesy / Ivy Tech

Following the recent lead of Indiana University and Purdue, Ivy Tech is freezing tuition for some students.

There are two ways students can qualify. To freeze their tuition, Ivy Tech students must either complete at least 30 credit hours over the next two semesters – which puts them on track for graduation in two years – or they must be continuously enrolled in the next three semesters – that’s six hours each in the fall and spring, and three next summer.  

Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder notes 65 percent of Ivy Tech enrollees take less than 12 hours a semester.

Courtesy / Indiana House Republicans

Hoosier teenagers who take driver’s education classes will be able to get their license a little sooner under legislation set to take effect in July.  The bill’s author hopes the change will incentivize more young people to go take driver training courses.

Under current law, teens who don’t take driver’s education can get their license at 16 years, nine months old, while teens who do take driver’s ed can get their license three months earlier, at 16 and a half. 

Mike Pence for Indiana

Indiana’s Republican Party chairman Monday announced Governor Mike Pence will make a bid for a second term.  The incumbent could face a tougher test than he did in 2012.

A Pence run for reelection wasn’t always considered a lock as the Hoosier governor had been mentioned – sometimes prominently – as a 2016 presidential contender. 

Courtesy / Greg Zoeller

Attorney General Greg Zoeller is launching a new division within his office aimed at boosting services for victims of violent and sexual crimes.  That effort includes a new statewide advocate network.

Indiana’s hundreds of victim advocates currently operate separately across the state in shelters, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices and hospitals.  The Attorney General’s new Victim Services and Outreach Division will launch the Victim Advocates’ Network to coordinate information and training. 

Zoeller says the network will link up various advocacy efforts.

Courtesy/U.S. Sen. Dan Coats

U.S. Senator Dan Coats says he wants to take the politics out of appointing federal judges, proposing a bipartisan commission to fill vacancies. Indiana’s federal system has three vacancies, with another on the way.

To fill judicial vacancies at the federal level, U.S. Senators submit recommendations to the president, who then submits a candidate for nomination to the Senate. 

Senator Coats says the system is fraught with politics, particularly when, as in Indiana, the two senators are from different parties. 

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