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.

Ways to Connect

Lee Coursey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/leeco/

A debate over a specific way to generate transportation funding dollars resurfaced during the third meeting of the state roads task on Thursday.

The discussion focused on funding sources. And an idea promoted by a Purdue expert testifying before the panel provoked debate among its members: specifically, the value of vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, fees.

In a VMT system, people pay for how many miles they drive.

Republican Sen. Brandt Hershman, (R-Buck Creek), says he has issues with using that type of fee to pay for roads.

Indiana lawmakers are exploring changes to the way money is dispersed from the state’s Military Family Relief Fund.

Debate in a study committee hearing Monday centered, in part, on whether some veterans can be “trusted” with the money.

The Military Family Relief Fund helps combat veterans and their immediate families who are struggling financially. The fund subsidizes food, housing, utility, transportation and medical bills.

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles

A new image will adorn Indiana’s standard license plate -- and it’s an icon of the state’s rural past.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles unveiled three potential designs for the new plate in August: one featured the state outline with a torch surrounded by stars inside it; the second had a yellow banner on the bottom reading “Crossroads of America.”

The third, the most colorful, featured verdant scenery with a red covered bridge under the center of the plate.

Courtesy Governor Mike Pence

Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Holcomb unveiled the first policy proposals of his campaign, including economic development, infrastructure and energy initiatives.

The proposals were short on the specifics of funding:

Many of Lieutenant Governor Holcomb’s proposals are the continuation of initiatives begun by Gov. Mike Pence.

This includes a $1 billion entrepreneurship plan, a new port, a new bridge over the Ohio River, and growing the Regional Cities program.

Lynn Friedman / https://www.flickr.com/photos/lynnfriedman/18263113926

Indiana’s unemployment rate declined in August for the fourth consecutive month, and is now at its lowest level in nine months.

The unemployment rate last month fell to 4.5 percent.

That marks a decline of more than half-a-percent in just four months.

The state’s private sector added 5,600 jobs last month, the fifth consecutive month of private sector job growth.

The increase was led by a surge in professional and business service jobs, while the leisure and hospitality sector also showed strong gains.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Indiana’s redistricting study committee discussed Monday some of the finer details of what redistricting reform would look like.

The study committee’s discussion – and much of the public testimony – focused on the formation, size and makeup of an independent redistricting commission, similar to those in other states.

The Coalition for Redistricting Reform, a private group of reform advocates, brought the committee a detailed plan for creating a nine-member commission. 

Curran Kelleher / https://www.flickr.com/photos/10604632@N02/1383481663

Nearly a quarter of Hoosiers smoke – and Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar says that costs the state nearly $3 billion a year in healthcare.

He says reducing the smoking rate isn’t just about health – it’s about business too.

“Research has shown that, on average, an employee who smokes will cost the employer 40-percent more than a nonsmoker for healthcare costs,” Brinegar says.

Pictures of Money / https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictures-of-money/

Indiana’s fiscal year is off to a slow start, with its first two months coming in below expectations.

August tax collections came in more than $25 million less than expected – following a July return of more than $7 million below projections.

That leaves the state already 1.5-percent off the mark through the first two months of the new fiscal year.

Corporate taxes fared well in August, more than 40-percent better than expected.

But individual income taxes scuffled after a strong July and sales taxes performed poorly again, more than $20 million off the mark.

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

The United Auto Workers union is criticizing Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Young for his past comments on the auto industry bailout.

UAW officials gathered in three union halls around the state Thursday to publicly attack Young.

The events coincide with a new ad from the Evan Bayh campaign. Both criticize Young for comments he made during his first congressional run in 2010, calling the federal auto industry bailout a “waste.”

courtesy State of Indiana

State officials announced a potential 50-year deal Tuesday to lease unused state cell towers and use the money to pay for the Bicentennial projects.

The Indiana Finance Authority approved an agreement on a potential 50-year lease – renewable after the first 25 years – for unused cell tower capacity between the state and Ohio-based Agile Networks.

The deal is expected to yield the state $260 million over the next half-century.

Agile will pay $50 million up front and share a percentage of the revenues generated by the towers with the state.

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