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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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.

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.

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