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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Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb seemed to break with his boss, Governor Mike Pence, Monday on the issue of Pence’s move to block Syrian refugees from the state.

The comment came during the second gubernatorial candidate debate between Republican Holcomb, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rex Bell.

The primary focus was on jobs and the economy.

But the refugee question was posed after a Monday federal appellate court decision to uphold a lower court ruling blocking Pence’s directive to suspend Indiana’s resettlement program for Syrian refugees.

in.gov/greggforgovernor.com

Indiana governor candidates typically have about six months between the primary and general elections to introduce and define themselves to the electorate. And they’re already spending millions to do so.

But 2016 isn’t a typical election cycle. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports on how identity plays a role in this year’s race for governor.

There are 188 days between Indiana’s May primary and the general election.

in.gov/greggforgovernor.com

A leading Indiana environmental organization won’t endorse in the gubernatorial race because it doesn’t have “enthusiastic support” for plans put forward by either Republican Eric Holcomb or Democrat John Gregg.

Steve Francis is the political chair of the Hoosier chapter of the Sierra Club. He says Indiana’s environmental issues – for instance, its reliance on coal and health issues created by poor air quality – have been ignored by the current administration.

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.

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