Brandon Smith

IPBS Statehouse Reporter

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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Scott / https://www.flickr.com/photos/skippy/

The Indiana Supreme Court will consider the future of Indiana’s personalized license plates after the state and the ACLU each had their say over a lawsuit challenging the program.

Greenfield Police Officer Rodney Vawter, with approval from the Fraternal Order of Police, had a license plate that read “0INK.” 

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles revoked it, calling it inappropriate.  The ACLU of Indiana, on behalf of Vawter, sued the BMV, saying its policy violates free speech rights. 

VIEVU / http://www.vievu.com/

Indiana law enforcement and municipal officials caution lawmakers Wednesday against a broad policy of releasing police body camera videos to the public, citing both privacy and due process concerns. 

Indiana’s public access law doesn’t specifically mention police body camera footage.  But it does have what’s called an “investigatory record” exception – meaning that law enforcement can indefinitely withhold information if it’s involved in an investigation, even after the investigation is over.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Just one year after Indiana’s comprehensive criminal code overhaul took effect, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council wants to increase drug dealing penalties. 

Indiana’s criminal code reform, which took five years to craft, was aimed largely at reducing penalties for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses in an effort to focus more on treatment and reduce recidivism. 

But a year into that reform, Prosecuting Attorneys Council head David Powell says he wants to add more teeth to the state’s drug dealing sentences.

McConnell Center / https://www.flickr.com/photos/mcconnellcenter/5036911914/

Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) – a longtime leader on nuclear disarmament – says he’s worried about the spread of nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East if Congress kills the nuclear agreement with Iran. 

Critics of the Iran nuclear agreement – including Indiana Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) – say the period it covers is too short. 

Ynse / https://www.flickr.com/photos/ynse/542370154/

If you’re arrested for a felony in Indiana, should the police automatically take a DNA sample to keep on file?  That’s the question a panel of lawmakers considered this week during a study committee hearing.

In Indiana, police input an offender’s DNA for comparison in a national database only after conviction of a felony.  So-called “DNA arrestee testing” laws would allow law enforcement to take those samples after a felony arrest. 

Joe Donnelly

Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) says he still has questions about Iran’s intentions in the nuclear agreement and cites a lack of action to cut off Iranian support for terrorism. 

But he says his chief concern is the potential future need for U.S. military intervention in the Middle Eastern nation. 

And in a statement, the Hoosier Democrat says he owes it to American servicemembers to ensure every other option of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is exhausted. 

Thus, Donnelly says, he’s willing to give the nuclear agreement the opportunity to succeed. 

John Dickerson campaign

Indiana’s U.S. Senate race to replace Dan Coats will feature two contested primaries next spring after a longtime advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities announced Saturday he will join the Democratic primary.

John Dickerson says he was first urged to run months ago by longtime friend and former Lieutenant Governor Kathy Davis, before Dan Coats had even decided to retire. 

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

The Department of Child Services’ caseload is up a quarter over last year.  So the state is responding by hiring more than a hundred new caseworkers.

State law sets a standard for the average number of cases each DCS employee should be handling at one time.  The vast majority of the department’s regions have been out of compliance for years. 

The state responded earlier this year by hiring 100 new caseworkers and 17 supervisors -- but DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura says since then, there’s been a spike in demand.

Joshua Duffy / https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshduffyphoto/7283981926

Indiana’s farmers are expected to produce significantly less corn this year while soybeans didn’t take as bad a hit after flooding that devastated parts of the state. 

Indiana corn crops are expected to decline by about 20-percent from last year, while soybeans are only down 9-percent.  That follows the second-wettest June and July in the state’s recorded history. 

Yet Purdue corn specialist Bob Nielsen says the expected output is a mixed bag across the state.

House Republican Caucus

A Marion County judge says the House Republican caucus doesn’t have to make lawmaker emails public under Indiana’s open records law. 

Citizen advocacy groups and an energy institute filed a lawsuit against the House GOP caucus and Rep. Eric Koch (R-Bedford) in April after the caucus refused to hand over Koch’s emails involving a solar energy bill. 

House Republicans argue the state’s Access to Public Records Act, or APRA, doesn’t apply to them, while groups such as the Citizens Action Coalition say it should. 

Kyle Stokes / http://indianapublicmedia.org/stateimpact/

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz Friday announced she is dropping out of the race for governor just a couple months after kicking off her campaign. 

Ritz’s gubernatorial campaign has been beset by problems since its start only two months ago, from an apparent lack of campaign staff to poor fundraising totals, and then questions about the legality of some campaign contributions. 

Sylvia Bao / http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/

Indiana farmland values declined in all three categories last year for the first time since 2009 -- but a Purdue economist says the drop was expected.

In Purdue’s latest land value survey, top-quality Hoosier farmland values dropped a little more than 5-percent in the last year. 

Average farmland values decreased by nearly 4-percent, while low-quality values are down just shy of 5-percent. 

But Purdue economist Michael Langemeier says he’s not surprised – revenue from crop sales have been down, which usually leads to a drop in land value. 

Donnelly Campaign

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly says he’s been studying the proposed Iran nuclear agreement closely -- but the Hoosier Democrat says he still doesn’t know whether he’ll support it.

Senator Dan Coats immediately expressed skepticism when the Iran agreement was unveiled last month, and that skepticism has since turned to outright opposition, with the Republican calling on Congress to reject the deal. 

Donnelly says he’s read through the agreement “a couple times” but still can’t say how he’ll vote.

Steve Baker / https://www.flickr.com/photos/littlebiglens/9580548360

Indiana’s annual measure of its homeless population shows a slight decrease since last year and a nearly ten percent drop since the start of the decade.  But homeless advocates say it’s not time to celebrate.

Indiana’s point-in-time homeless count – which took place on one night in late January – shows about 5,800 Hoosiers without a home, down 2-percent from last year. 

Alan Witchey is the executive director of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention.  He says the count doesn’t reflect the actual number of homeless people in the state. 

Keith Cooper / https://www.flickr.com/photos/cooperweb/8363160192

About half of Hoosier workers contribute to a retirement plan. That’s a better percentage than nearly two-thirds of the country.  Yet the amount of money they put into those savings is well below the national average. 

Indiana is middle of the pack when compared to the rest of that nation in a report from the National Institute on Retirement Security. 

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