Joyce Russell

Correspondent

Joyce Russell is a correspondent based at the Iowa Statehouse. Joyce has been covering the Iowa Statehouse since shortly after joining the news staff at WOI Radio in 1988. Her earlier broadcasting experience included news reporting at commercial stations in Oklahoma City and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Joyce’s reports can be heard on National Public Radio and American Public Media programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Marketplace.  She covered the last six Iowa caucus campaigns and interviewed numerous candidates for president, including some who went on to attain the highest office in the land.   

Joyce  has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and  a master’s degree in English from the University of Oklahoma.   

Joyce’s favorite public radio program is Fresh Air.

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After three days of bitter partisan debate, the Iowa House and Senate today gave final approval to legislation critics say will decimate Iowa’s collective bargaining law that covers 180-thousand public employees in Iowa. 

A handful of Republican voters defied their leadership and voted with Democrats against the bill. 

The vote in the House was 53 to 47.   The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 29 to 21.

Democrats argued through the night and up to the afternoon, making a last pitch on behalf of public workers.  

John Pemble/IPR

It was another long day of debate Wednesday in the Iowa House and Senate, where Democrats are trying to stop a bill they say will decimate Iowa’s collective bargaining law that benefits 180,000 public employees. 

Democrats have stretched the debate across two days, though passage is almost guaranteed. 

John Pemble / IPR

Debate that may last days got underway in the Iowa House and Senate yesterday on a Republican-sponsored bill that will rewrite Iowa’s law governing collective bargaining for public employees who work for the state, cities, counties, and schools. 

Over the last week thousands of public workers have phoned, e-mailed, or turned out in person to protest the bill.  

Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) opened up debate in the Senate shortly before four o’clock. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa Republican lawmakers would like to rewrite Iowa’s public employee collective bargaining law. Their plans are laid out in companion bills, Senate File 213 and House File 291.

John Pemble /IPR file photo

The Iowa legislature is moving quickly this week on a collective bargaining bill that looks very similar to the one passed in Wisconsin back in 2011. There's a hearing Monday at 6:00 p.m. at the capitol. IPR Morning Edition Host Clay Masters talks with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell.

Iowa's bill follows the Wisconsin model more than most. That's according to one legal expert. The bill will prevent unions from negotiating for health benefits and a whole list of other benefits and workplace issues.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A Republican plan to discontinue payroll deductions of union dues for state workers is encountering fierce opposition from public employees and their advocates in the legislature.   

The measure is part of a sweeping overhaul of the collective bargaining law which covers 130,000 public employees.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The top Republican in the Iowa House is downplaying concerns about a bill that advanced this week to throw out higher minimum wage laws currently in effect in four Iowa counties.  

The bill would mandate the same $7.25 minimum wage statewide, so higher wages approved in Polk, Linn, Johnson and Wapello counties would be repealed.  

House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) says that doesn’t mean wages in those communities will automatically go down.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill to scale back the rights of public workers got its first airing at the statehouse today, one day after it was introduced to broad and noisy criticism.   Public workers told house and senate panels the bill guts Iowa’s collective bargaining law which they say has helped raise the standard of living for 130,000 state, county, city, and school employees.      

Extra troopers were on hand at the capitol for the hearings.     

Joyce Russell/IPR

Hundreds of union employees turned out at the statehouse in solidarity with public sector workers whose collective bargaining rights are on the line under the new Republican majority. 

Bills were introduced today in the House and Senate to significantly alter the state’s 40-year-old collective bargaining law, setting up what will be a bitter battle with minority Democrats. 

Public workers such as firefighters and teachers filled the statehouse rotunda.   

John Pemble/IPR

An overflow crowd of advocates for K-12 schools came to the statehouse today, trying to stop a bill they say would severely underfund schools next year.  

Advocates say the crowd would have been larger if the hearing had been scheduled in the evening when most public hearings at the capitol take place.     

Minority Democrats cried foul when Republicans scheduled the hearing for 11 a.m.. 

Tammy Wawro with the Iowa State Education Association spoke angrily for those who could not attend.  

John Pemble / IPR

Last week, the Iowa state Senate passed a 1.1%  increase in state financial aid to school districts for the 2017/18 academic year. They also voted to defund Planned Parenthood and create a state family planning services program.  Both bills go over to the House now.  Morning Edition Host Clay Masters spoke today with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the week ahead.

J. Stephen Conn/flickr

A plan to close court offices around the state for one day in May to help meet a budget shortfall is coming under scrutiny but the chief spokesman for the Judicial Branch  is defending the plan.   

Rank and file court employees will take a one-day unpaid leave on May 26th while judges and magistrates will be exempt.    

In a letter to court employees, Court Administrator David Boyd said it’s a matter of equity.

COD Newsroom / Flickr

Whether or not your team won last weekend, this year’s Super Bowl comes at a time when the Iowa legislature is considering new laws for so-called “collision sports” in Iowa schools.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A Republican member of the Iowa House is coming to the defense of a state program that benefits artists and arts organizations, after both the House and Senate scooped up the program’s money for other needs.   

Arts advocates lobbied hard to preserve the Cultural Trust Fund, which was established in 2002, so that interest on the fund could provide matching grants for the arts.  

Rep. Andy McKean (R-Anamosa) was in the legislature back in 2002 when the Trust Fund was established.

Joyce Russell/IPR

After more than two hours of contentious debate, the Iowa Senate has voted to eliminate state funding for health care facilities which provide abortion.    Planned Parenthood is the biggest target of the bill, and its supporters in the Senate waged a vigorous fight.    Republican lawmakers say they have an anti-abortion mandate from Iowa voters.     

The bill throws out the $3 million family planning program which served 12,000 Iowans on Medicaid last year. 

Most of that was federal money.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Democrats and Republicans squared off in the Iowa House today over public financing of campaigns, as a GOP bill was approved to eliminate a limited form of the practice in Iowa. 

On a party line vote, the House Ways and Means Committee passed a bill to get rid of the checkoff on Iowa income tax forms that allows a contribution to the Republican or Democratic party or to a campaign fund that is then distributed to the major parties.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill pitting labor against industry passed the Iowa Senate by a vote of 35 to 15, potentially clearing the way for employers to have a new option for drug-testing in the workplace.    

The bill adds hair samples to the list of specimens to test.

Currently the law allows tests on urine, saliva, breath, and blood.    

Senator Michael Breitbach (R-Strawberry Point), a small business owner,  said it’s a matter of workplace safety.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Piercing your ears would be exempt, but advancing to the nose or lips or beyond should require parental consent. 

That’s according to a bill considered at the Iowa Statehouse today.  

Backers say the measure would bring body piercing into better alignment with tattooing, which is banned altogether in Iowa for people under age 18, with or without parental consent.   

Daniel Zeno with the ACLU of Iowa says freedom of expression is at stake.

Bryan McDonald/flickr

Democrats in the Iowa Senate delayed action for six hours yesterday on a bill setting basic state school aid for next year, trying to stop what they say will severely underfund K-12 education.

Republicans in the House and Senate propose just over one-percent increase for schools.  

School officials have said they need at least four percent to avoid larger class sizes or layoffs.

The bill is on the fast track, clearing committees in both chambers yesterday, and now headed for votes in the House and Senate as early as this week.  

Branstad Supports Trump Travel Ban

Jan 30, 2017
tani.P/flickr

Iowa's top elected officials are reacting to President Trump's executive order that restricts travel into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries and puts refugee programs on hold.

Governor Terry Branstad supports the ban.   

At his weekly news conference, he said he is not going to second guess how the policy is being implemented.

John Pemble / IPR

A lot of action happened last week at the statehouse and it shows no sign of slowing down. Here’s what to expect going into the week.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The head of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy briefed state lawmakers this week on changes in the curriculum for officers in training at the school.   

Director Judy Bradshaw says they’re trying to bring students up to speed on a growing form of credit card fraud.

Thieves are installing more and more illegal card-readers known as skimmers on gas pumps and ATM’s.   

The devices copy the information from your credit card, which can then be turned into a clone of your card.

Skimmers can be purchased on the internet for less than $20.   

Francisco Osorio / Flickr

A bill introduced in the Iowa Senate aims to block federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other Iowa agencies that, among other medical services, also provide abortions.

Note: Planned Parenthood currently receives a federal-state match of Medicaid dollars. While the funding goes towards family planning services only and does not fund abortion procedures, Planned Parenthood does provide abortions.

By discontinuing  the Medicaid Family Planning Network waiver, Iowa would lose about $3 million in Medicaid funding for family planning services.

IPR Images

Iowa’s Judicial Branch is the first division of state government to announce a mandatory furlough as a  result of budget cuts for the fiscal  year that ends in June.   

Court offices will close for one day and employees will take unpaid leave.  

Governor Branstad recommended a more than $7 million cut to the judicial branch.   Lawmakers scaled that back to $3 million.  

In a memo to court employees, state court administrator David Boyd unveiled how courts would absorb the cut.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Public health experts and medical professionals crowded into a committee room at the statehouse today, presenting a united front against a bill to allow more Iowans to avoid getting their children vaccinated for preventable diseases.    

Currently, families can claim a religious exemption.   The bill would extend that to anyone with a personal conviction against vaccines.   

John Pemble / IPR

A bill to cut tens of millions of dollars in spending to balance this year’s state budget is making its way through the Iowa House and Senate, and a top Democratic budget-writer is  criticizing one proposal they say will harm poor families who are already in tough circumstances.   

The bill negotiated by majority Republicans in the House, Senate, and governor’s office would cut lodging support for families who have to spend time in Iowa City while getting health care.  

John Pemble/IPR file photo

A long-held tradition of the Iowa Senate is about to shift under a rule change promoted by the new Republican majority.    

At the beginning of each day, through what’s called points of personal privilege, senators express their views on any subject, sometimes at length. 

Under new Republican rules, that will occur right before adjournment.   On many days that will be after some lawmakers and many observers have left the building. 

John Pemble/IPR

Dozens of artists and representatives of arts organizations from around the state crowded a committee room at the statehouse today, urging lawmakers not to empty out a trust fund that benefits the arts in communities around the state.   

The Iowa Cultural Trust fund is on the chopping block as state lawmakers strive to cover a shortfall in the state budget for the fiscal year that ends in June. 

A tentative budget agreement would take the entire $6 million in the fund, and use it to offset cuts to a range of state agencies.

Mike Gatzke/flickr

There’s another effort underway at the statehouse to make sure student athletes in collision sports get proper evaluation in the event of a head injury.  

A bill to require a health care professional at every high school varsity football, soccer, or wrestling match got its first hearing of the year at the capitol today.   

Lawmakers are trying again to address the problem of student athletes going back into games instead of being sidelined after a head injury or possible concussion.

Radio Iowa

Statehouse Republicans have tentatively agreed to scale back some of Governor Branstad’s biggest proposed budget cuts for the fiscal year that ends in June. 

But numerous agencies will still have to give up millions of dollars they expected to be able to spend.     

The GOP is struggling to cut more than $100 million from this year’s budget  because tax receipts have not met expectations.    

Senator Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) said for example the governor’s request to cut $25 million from the Regents schools gave legislators heartburn.

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