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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Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Indiana House lawmakers took steps Tuesday to ensure recipients of the federal immigration program known as DACA will be able to receive and renew professional licenses.

The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency recently changed its applications to better comply with a 2011 state immigration law. The move meant thousands of DACA recipients were barred from professional licenses.

Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany) says PLA is only following state law – but that law has serious consequences.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

A bill to expand access in Indiana to baby boxes won’t advance any further this session. Baby boxes are meant to be a more anonymous way for people to drop off unwanted newborns.

Still, the expansion effort is alive and well – in a separate piece of legislation.

A 2017 measure allowed hospitals to house the devices. Last year’s law also grandfathered-in the state’s two existing baby boxes, which are in volunteer firehouses.

Lauren Chapman / IPB News

A House panel Monday unanimously approved legislation its author calls "the grossest bill of the session." The measure would ban the practice of eyeball tattooing.

Gene Helveston is a longtime Indiana ophthalmologist. He supports the bill to ban the practice of tattooing an eyeball – though he acknowledges he doesn’t know of anyone who does it or has had it done.

“But I think that’s because the proposition is so preposterous that nobody who I keep company with would do such a thing,” Helveston says.

Brandon Smith / IPB News

A Senate committee unanimously recommended creation of a special legislative study commission to investigate the Department of Child Services Monday.

Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Merrillville) authored the resolution. He says his proposed two-year commission is not meant to interfere with an ongoing, independent review of the embattled state agency.

“I think this is a great opportunity for legislators to remain engaged in this process,” Melton says.

Brandon Smith / IPBS

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says he has doubts about a measure to eliminate background checks at all gun purchases for some Indiana gun license holders.

His comments come amid renewed debate over gun regulations in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

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.

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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.

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