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

Brandon Smith / IPB News

The stroke of a pen is all that separates Indiana from legal Sunday alcohol retail sales.

The state Senate voted one last time Thursday to send to the governor a measure eliminating a Sunday sales ban that’s stood since Prohibition.

Measures to undo the law failed for decades. But this year, two of the interest groups long at odds over the issue – grocery and liquor stores – made peace and backed the effort.

Police can use a drug dog to search your vehicle during a routine traffic stop if you voluntarily admit to past drug possession. That’s the ruling of the Indiana Court of Appeals in a recent decision.

John Toschlog was pulled over by police in 2016 because one of his headlights was out. During the stop, the officer asked him if he had any drugs in the vehicle – or if he ever had. 

Brandon Smith / IPB News

Legislation unanimously approved in a Senate committee Tuesday aims to strengthen Indiana’s human trafficking laws.

The bill makes several changes to current statute. It separates out labor trafficking and sex trafficking and better defines them both.

It also takes out the requirement in law that force must be involved in trafficking, because Rep. Sally Siegrist (R-West Lafayette) says that can be difficult to prove.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

One of the first bills headed to the governor’s desk this session will allow Indiana students to easily carry and apply sunscreen at school.

That’s as some lawmakers grumble about why the bill was necessary.

The need for such legislation grew out of requirements some schools imposed. Those included notes from a doctor or a parent and storing the sunscreen in a single school location, such as a nurse’s office.

Brandon Smith / IPB News

Indiana lawmakers may codify some existing practices when it comes to cleaning up the state’s voter rolls. And legislation unanimously approved by a Senate committee Monday deals with a part of Indiana law that’s subject to a pending lawsuit.

Indiana uses a multi-state database to find voters who’ve moved. If the Indiana voter’s name and birth date match another state’s records, the state digs further, looking at information such as Social Security number and zip code.

Tyler Lake / WTIU

Indiana’s three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate – former state Rep. Mike Braun, U.S.Rep. Luke Messer (R-Shelbyville), and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg) – will meet this week in the campaign’s first debate in the lead up to May’s primary.

The GOP primary’s tone has been described by some as nasty and rancorous. University of Indianapolis political science professor Laura Merrifield Wilson says that’s unlikely to change in the debate.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Indiana lawmakers want to create a new crime to dramatically increase penalties for drug dealers if the buyer overdoses and dies.

Under current law, if you give a friend a small amount of Adderall or Ritalin and they overdose and die, you could get up to two and a half years in prison. If proposed legislation passes, you could get up to 40 years.

Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council executive director David Powell says the bill sends a message to drug dealers, even if it will rarely be used.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Legislation to regulate short-term rentals such as Airbnb may undergo some tweaks in the Senate.

The measure prohibits local governments from banning short-term rentals. It does allow locals to require permits for those who use platforms such as Airbnb. And it says municipalities can charge a permit fee of up to $150.

But it’s silent on how often local units can charge that fee. The bill’s author, Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne) says he wants to clarify that rental owners only need to pay when they first receive the permit.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Sunday alcohol carryout sales would become legal even earlier than expected under a legislative change made in a House committee Wednesday.

If passed, legislation to legalize Sunday alcohol sales from noon to 8 p.m. would have taken effect July 1, like most new laws. But Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn), the bill’s sponsor, says he’d rather see it take effect as soon as the governor signs it into law.

Peter Balonon-Rosen / IPB News

Indiana can move forward with lethal injections following an Indiana Supreme Court ruling sanctioning the state’s use of a new lethal injection drug.