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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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.

Brandon Smith / IPB News

Senate President Pro Tem David Long announced Tuesday he will retire after 22 years in the chamber.

Standing beside his wife Melissa, who recently retired herself, Long (R-Fort Wayne) said he’s stepping down in November “for the right reasons.”

“I’ve seen a lot of things accomplished that I hoped to see done," Long says. "I feel like the Senate’s in good hands with this new generation.”

Long points to Right to Work, school vouchers, property tax caps, and tax cuts as notable accomplishments.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

State lawmakers say they’ll seek to find a balance between innovation and safety when it comes to self-driving cars.

A Senate committee took testimony Tuesday on legislation to regulate autonomous vehicles.

The bill creates a regulatory system for any companies that want to test and drive the vehicles. That system would include oversight panels compromised of state Departments of Insurance and Transportation leaders, the State Police, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and local officials.

The measure also bars local governments from banning self-driving cars.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Indiana tax revenues surged ahead of the state’s revised, more pessimistic expectations in January. Yet seven months into the current fiscal year, total collections are still below target for the state budget approved last year by lawmakers.

Analysts delivered a new, less promising fiscal outlook in mid-December. Based on those projections, January revenues swelled, boosted by positive collections of sales and individual income taxes.

Indiana continues to struggle in its new fiscal year as revenues came in below expectations in August.

Total state tax collections came in about $18 million off the mark in August. That puts the state more than $40 million behind projections this fiscal year.

Sales and corporate tax revenues continue to struggle. Corporate taxes in particular suffered last month, $31 million less than expected, which is about 700 percent below target.

Indiana’s unemployment rate rose last month for the first time in five months even as the state’s private sector added jobs.

The Indiana unemployment rate went up 0.1 percent rising to 3.1 percent in July. That’s the first increase since February. But it still keeps the unemployment rate well below the national average and lower than all neighboring states.

Indiana lawmakers want schools to develop more robust suicide prevention policies while teachers get training on the issue.

Rep. Julie Olthoff’s (R-Merrilville) bill requires several new steps to create suicide prevention programs. And Olthoff says the first step is creating a statewide suicide prevention coordinator.

“And then they’ll be able to disseminate information and hopefully prevent them,” Olthoff says.

Global tech firm Infosys will bring 2,000 jobs to Indiana in what Gov. Eric Holcomb calls a “game-changing announcement.”

Infosys plans to open four hubs across the U.S. in the next few years, hiring 10,000 Americans. One of those hubs – and 2,000 of those jobs – will be in Indiana. Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka says the company’s plans are aimed at stressing local hiring as it adjusts to a constantly evolving tech world,

Noah Coffey / https://www.flickr.com/photos/noahwesley/

Indiana Senate Republicans rolled out their legislative agenda Tuesday.

Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports, the caucus’ top priorities include a long-term road funding plan, replacing the ISTEP test and addressing vaping liquid regulations.

On road funding, Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says debate will center on the type and level of tax and fee increases necessary to cover current costs.

In education, the Senate GOP wants to replace the state’s ISTEP test, as does every other caucus.

Brandon Smith / Indiana Public Broadcasting

2016’s Statehood Day celebration looked a lot like those in years past: there was the choir singing “Back Home Again in Indiana,” an actor playing President Benjamin Harrison, and a student reading her winning submission from the annual essay contest.

This time, it was Jillian Stemler of New Albany, for her entry “Bicentennial Travels.”

“It was fun to celebrate Indiana’s birthday by traveling," Stemler says. "In the future, there might be a new state park to explore or maybe Indiana’s first female governor – me.”

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