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.

Ways to Connect

Paul Weaver / Flickr

Republican lawmaker Rep. Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley is pushing comprehensive changes to Iowa's firearms law this year. 

Specifically, House Study Bill 133 seeks to add "stand your ground" provisions, institute lifetime permits to carry, allow children under 14 years of age to use handguns under adult supervision, and preempt local ordinances that restrict firearms use or declare themselves “gun-free zones."

John Pemble / IPR

The self-imposed deadline for lawmakers to get bills out of committee known as “funnel week” is now upon the Iowa legislature.  Here’s what to know going into this important step at the capitol this week, according to IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell.

ep_jhu/flickr

Iowa’s laws on drug-endangered children would be updated to address the state’s opioid epidemic under legislation the House and Senate are considering.  

Authorities say more kids are being affected by their caregivers’ abuse of painkillers.  

Currently, Iowa’s child protection policies focus heavily on methamphetamine, its manufacture, distribution, and use.    

John Pemble/IPR

News that scholarships will be rescinded for students at the University of Iowa because of state budget cuts sparked controversy  at the statehouse Thursday. 

Democrats are blaming Republicans for a bill that cut $8 million from the UI budget for this year.  

News came to UI families in a letter from President Bruce Herrald.

“This devastating cut has forced us to consider every expenditure,” Herrald said.    

Some 2500 students will  see their financial aid packages reduced  by an  average of more than $1700 for the school year that starts in the fall.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

African-Americans turned out for a hearing at the statehouse today on a wide-ranging gun rights bill they say will threaten their safety if it becomes law.   

The bill includes so-called stand-your-ground language, along with broad new rights for carrying weapons.  

Under stand-your-ground, a gunowner can fire if he believes himself to be in danger.  

Laurel Clinton from Des Moines says her three sons may look dangerous to some because they’re black.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Patients and their advocates made a return trip to the Iowa Capitol Wednesday, arguing once again for the legalization of medical marijuana in Iowa. 

A new bill is under consideration in the House to regulate the growing, manufacturing, and distribution  of cannabis oil.  

Earlier legislation is about to expire.   It allows epilepsy patients to travel out of state to acquire the drug, which has created numerous obstacles.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A spokesman for the Koch Brothers-funded organization Americans for Prosperity says school choice is their next top issue to push through the Iowa legislature.    

The group last week saw completion of their number one priority, rewriting Iowa’s collective bargaining law. 

The bill reduces the bargaining rights for public workers in Iowa and affects their ability to raise money and stay organized.

Speaking at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Americans for Prosperity’s Drew Klein received kudos for his work on the collective bargaining bill.  

Russell/IPR

Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court Mark Cady made a rare appearance before a statehouse committee Tuesday, pleading for more money for Iowa’s court system.    

The Chief Justice presents the judicial branch needs each year in the annual Condition of the Judiciary address.     

Justice Cady told house and senate budget writers he’s never brought his case to lawmakers directly.

“I do so now to share with you my belief that the judicial branch is at a crossroads,” Cady said.

Lord Jim/flickr

A bill to ban cellphone use while driving unless it's hands-free got its first public airing at the statehouse today, garnering broad support and winning the unanimous approval of a three-member bipartisan panel in  the Iowa Senate.      

Public safety officials, the governor, and a wide range of citizens groups say cellphones are contributing to a rise in traffic fatalities on Iowa roadways. 

Linn County Sheriff’s Deputy Major John Godar, head of the Iowa State Sheriff’s Association, says the current law banning texting while driving isn’t working.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

The newest member of the Iowa Board of Regents, who faces confirmation by the Iowa Senate, took an hour of vigorous questioning Monday from Democrats on the Senate Education Committee.  

Dr. Michael Richards has been serving on the board in an interim capacity, replacing retiring Regent Mary Andringa.     

Minority Democrats probed Richards’s views on conservative legislation under consideration in the GOP- controlled Senate, which would affect the universities.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad Monday downplayed a controversy over his signing last week of a controversial bill wiping out most collective bargaining rights for Iowa’s public workers.  

A lobbyist for a conservative group that backed the bill was on hand for the bill-signing which was off-limits to the public. 

Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, lobbied for the bill.  

The group’s Iowa Director Drew Klein had his picture taken with the Governor at the bill-signing table.   The photo ended up on Twitter.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

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.  

Pages