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.

Iowa Public Radio

Democratic State Sen. Nate Boulton says he will retain his seat in the Iowa Senate, in spite of calls for his resignation.  

Boulton was accused of sexual misconduct and dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination for governor.  

That was days before the June primary, after the Des Moines Register revealed complaints from women who described being touched inappropriately by Boulton in social situations in the past.  

Iowa Public Radio

Some Iowa Republicans Monday issued statements critical of President Donald Trump for his remarks in Finland following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  

In a joint news conference, the president appeared to accept Putin’s denial of involvement in the 2016 U.S. election, even though the U.S. Justice Department has indicted Russians in a cybersecurity scheme.

"I have great confidence in my intelligence people," Trump said. "But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. 

Michael Leland/IPR

Dignitaries and ordinary Iowans came to the statehouse Thursday to honor Gov. Robert Ray, who died this week at the age of 89.    

He lay in state in the statehouse rotunda until 8:30 p.m., the first official to do so for the past 64 years.     

In a solemn ceremony, Ray’s granddaughters, members of Iowa’s Asian community and Gov. Kim Reynolds each placed a wreath near the flag-draped coffin before the crowd was allowed to file past.

Manhhai/flickr

As Iowans observe the death this week of former Gov. Robert Ray, some friends and associates are recalling the struggles behind his work bringing southeast Asian refugees to Iowa back in the 1970’s.  

Thousands of refugees were brought to the state starting in 1975, and again later in the decade.   Many were fleeing political repression.

“It was not without controversy for sure,” said former Chief of Staff David Oman.  “There were many people who couldn’t figure out why we would have to do this, why should we do this.”

Daniel Moon

Representatives of Iowa’s Asian community will play a special role on Thursday in observances honoring former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, who passed away this week at the age of 89.       

A motorcade will transport Ray’s body through Des Moines and to the Capitol where he will lie in state in the rotunda.  

Members of the Asian community will lay one of the wreaths on the coffin and lead the procession of Iowans paying their respects.

Ray oversaw the resettlement of thousands of southeast Asian refugees in Iowa in the 70’s.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Petitioners challenging Iowa’s voter ID law were in Polk County District court Friday, urging a district judge to temporarily halt enforcement of parts of the law. 

Ames resident Taylor Blair and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa are suing Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate over the law.

The requirements in the law to show identification at the polls don’t go into effect until next year.  But on Friday, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued for a temporary injunction to stop the parts of the law that are already in effect dealing with absentee ballots.   

Geoff Livingston/flickr

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to make court proceedings more open to the public, this time in the form of audio from oral arguments.

Grassley has long advocated for cameras to be allowed in federal courts, as they are in many state courts across the country.      

Now, along with ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy,  Grassley has written a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts,  arguing that audio from oral arguments should be immediately available, instead of released at the end of the week.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says the U.S.  Senate Judiciary Committee that he chairs is beefing up staff to help evaluate President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.        

And Grassley says if past confirmation schedules are a guide, the new justice could be on the bench to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy by the opening of the court’s next term on the first Monday in October.   

President Trump will announce his choice on Monday.     

Sukup Manufacturing, Sheffield Iowa

A new workplace drug testing law went into effect this week so Iowa employers will be allowed to discipline more workers for inebriation on the job.   

The law will lower the allowed workplace blood alcohol standard from 0.04 to 0.02 to bring Iowa in line with federal law.   

Sukup Manufacturing External Relations Manager Rachel Geilenfeld lobbied the legislature for the change.

Scott Davidson/Flickr

A new drunk driving law has gone into effect in Iowa. Backers hope it will keep more impaired drivers off of state roadways.  It will require more convicted drunk drivers to install devices on their cars to lock the ignition if they’ve been drinking.  

Hubbell for Governor Campaign

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell has selected State Sen. Rita Hart as his running mate.  

Hart will be officially nominated as lieutenant governor today when Democrats meet for their state convention in Des Moines.  

Hart describes herself as an educator, farmer, mother, and volunteer.  She is serving her first term in  the Iowa Senate.  She taught in the Calamus-Wheatland and Bennett Community School Districts for over two decades.  She and her husband Paul operate a family-owned century farm near Wheatland in Clinton County.

ACLU of Iowa

A Polk County District Court judge this week ordered the Iowa Department of Human Services to cover the costs of sex reassignment surgery for two transgender women.  

The ACLU of Iowa says it’s the first court ruling recognizing the rights of transgender Iowans under the Iowa Constitution and the Iowa Civil Rights Act.    

In his ruling Chief District Judge Arthur Gamble ordered DHS to approve Medicaid coverage for what’s known as gender-affirming surgery for Carol Ann Beal of northwest Iowa and EerieAnna Good of the Quad Cities.   

John Pemble/IPR

Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell handily won the race for the Democratic nomination  for governor Tuesday, defeating four other candidates for the chance to go against Gov. Kim Reynolds in  November.

It was a who’s who of prominent Democrats at the Hubbell watch party near Principal Park, a sign of his massive support in Polk County.   

That helped him win well over the 35 percent he needed to clinch the nomination in the crowded field.  

Hubbell thanked the supporters who took a chance on a first-time candidate.

North Charleston/flickr

DNA exonerations for unjustly convicted defendants aren’t happening in Iowa the way they are in other states, and Iowa’s DNA statute has something to do with that.  

That’s what officials at the Iowa Public Defender’s office are arguing, after an unsuccessful attempt this year to update the law to make it more likely that innocent people could be freed.     

Assistant State Public Defender Kurt Swaim says Iowa is one of only a few states in the country with no  DNA exonerations.

Joyce Russell/IPR

In the final debate of the race for the Democratic nomination for governor last night, five candidates made their case for who is best qualified to take on Gov. Kim Reynolds in the general election.  

The debate was held before a live audience at the State Historical Building, sponsored by the Des Moines Register and KCCI-TV.  

Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell has been leading in the polls, financing his campaign in part with  his personal wealth.  

Wikimedia Commons

Fireworks will go on sale again in Iowa communities soon ahead of the 4th of July holiday, and the state fire marshal’s office expects the number of licensed sellers will increase by as much as 20 percent this year.   

Fire Marshal Dan Wood says many vendors went without inspection last year because of the narrow window between passage of the fireworks bill and the 4th of July holiday.  

“Last year everything got passed basically in mid-May and we had just a few weeks to implement the system, get the plans reviewed, and get out and do inspections,” Wood said. 

The Republican-sponsored tax reform bill that passed on the last day of the legislative session included some tax advantages for private schools that didn’t get much attention during the debate.  That was a victory for private K-12 education advocates, who lost a bigger battle this year.  A bill to give state dollars directly to families for private and parochial school tuition, what advocates call education savings accounts and critics call school vouchers, failed to advance.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Reynolds today defended a bill she signed that will scale back energy efficiency programs in Iowa.  

Critics say the money available for rebates and retrofits will be cut by as much as two-thirds.

That’s even though the Iowa Energy Plan that Reynolds oversaw championed energy efficiency as an important piece of energy policy.  

Reynolds said the final bill was the result of compromise with Republican legislators.

Iowa capitol
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Lawmakers adjourned for the 2018 legislative session on Saturday after passing a tax bill worth $2.8 billion and the strictest ban on abortion anywhere in the country. 

During this session, Governor Kim Reynolds also signed legislation to improve mental health care and water quality in the state. The perennial issue of the bottle bill made some movement. Iowa also saw the ouster of Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix after a video of him interacting with a female lobbyist surfaced. 

John Pemble/IPR

The 2018 session of the Iowa legislature came to a close Saturday, creating a new record length for overtime sessions when one party controls the House, the Senate, and the governor’s office.  Lawmakers put the finishing touches on the state budget and approved what Republicans call the most significant tax reform in a generation.

The tax bill, with an eventual price tag of $2.8 billion, passed the House and Senate on strict party-line votes, the last bill to be approved. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A partisan fight has erupted between the Republican legislature and Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller as lawmakers try to finalize a state budget and adjourn for the year.   

Republicans have warned the AG to back off civil suits against the Trump administration, or face a cut in his office budget.  

Miller has joined numerous multi-state challenges against the administration over a range of issues.  

Sarah Boden/IPR File

Abortion opponents in the Iowa legislature have added language to a budget bill that will divert more federal funds away from Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions. 

Under the bill, Planned Parenthood would no longer be eligible for grants for sex education programs.  That follows last year’s legislation banning family planning grants for abortion providers.

If the new legislation becomes law, the health care provider would lose approximately $130,000 from the federal Community Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program.      

Joyce Russell/IPR

The 2018 tax cut debate continued at the statehouse Wednesday with a “walk-through” of the general outlines of a plan agreed to by Republicans in the House, Senate, and governor’s office.

Democrats lashed out against the latest version of the bill cutting income taxes and eventually corporate taxes by $2.8 billion over six years.

It’s a must-do for majority Republicans before they bring the overtime 2018 legislative session to a close.   

Iowa General Assembly Website

Iowa’s decades-old energy efficiency programs will be reduced by about two-thirds under a bill that gained final approval in the Iowa Senate last night, in spite of a last-ditch effort by Democrats to defeat it.  

The Senate approved SF2311 on a strict party-line vote of 28 to 20.    It goes now to the governor. 

Under the bill, a smaller portion of Iowans’ electric and gas bills will go into an energy efficiency fund that pays for rebates for energy efficiency appliances and retrofitting homes.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Reynolds Monday took questions on an upcoming outside review of the Iowa Finance Authority, where Director Dave Jamison was fired after serious allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace.  

Reynolds announced Friday that Des Moines attorney Mark Weinhardt will investigate the conduct that led to Jamison’s firing and any similar incidents during his tenure as executive director.

Initially Reynolds implied that firing Jamison was enough to address the allegations.  

She says she now seeks an outside review on the advice of the attorney general.

John Pemble / IPR

Lawmakers are in the third week of overtime at the Iowa capitol. Late on Friday afternoon, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she and the House and Senate had reached a tax cut deal. It came on the heels of new information regarding sexual harassment at the Iowa Finance Authority.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds Thursday released a redacted letter from a state employee describing overt sexual harassment over three years by former Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison, who is also a longtime friend of the governor. 

Jamison was fired on March 24th, less than 24 hours after the employee came forward.  

Requests have mounted since then for more information about the case, which the letter released Thursday provides.

John Pemble/IPR

This year’s legislative session, now in its second week of overtime, could set a new record for going beyond scheduled adjournment when one party controls the House, the Senate, and the Governor’s office.  

In remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) said since the Iowa legislature has met annually, there have been nine times when one party controlled both the legislative and executive branches.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Finance managers in the Iowa House and Senate say it is costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars for the legislature to remain in session past its April 17th adjournment date.  

Those costs are expected to rise as the session may continue well into next week, even once House and Senate GOP negotiators reach agreement on taxes and budgets. 

Chief House Clerk Carmine Boal explains that lawmakers’ expense accounts expired on April 17th, the scheduled 100th day of the session, so they are no longer being paid per diem. 

Wikimedia Commons

A stronger form of medical marijuana would become available in Iowa for a larger number of patients under a bill that advanced in the Iowa Senate today.  

It’s the second year in a row that the Senate has tried to pass a more expansive medical marijuana law than the one Gov. Branstad signed last year.   

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