Joyce Russell


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

Joyce Russell/IPR

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds is speaking out against the reported behavior of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump toward women over the years. 

But she predicts that when Iowa voters go to the polls next month they will focus on other issues.      

At the Branstad administration’s weekly news conference, Reynolds was asked about reports of sexual harassment and assault against Trump.


Governor Branstad says a higher minimum wage in some parts of the state but not others is causing problems for businesses and local governments.   

He says he’ll work with the legislature to try to agree on a higher statewide minimum wage.

Linn, Polk, Wapello, and Johnson Counties have approved a higher countywide minimum wage.    But not all towns in those counties have gone along.  

Also, the governor says, some cities straddle county lines.  

Rob Dillard/IPR

Governor Branstad says the Iowa Highway Patrol will be available to help local law enforcement police a planned protest against the controversial Bakken Crude Oil Pipeline.  

Critics threaten to engage in civil disobedience Wednesday to stop construction at a rural Boone County location.  

At his weekly news conference Branstad, says the Iowa Highway Patrol protects the safety and well-being of Iowans.

“Whether it is at the State Fair or on the highways or wherever it might be,” Branstad says.

Iowa Public Radio/Sarah Boden

A federal report released last year shows in 2014, for-profit companies managing part of Iowa’s three billion dollar Medicaid program made far fewer faulty payments than the state-run portion of the program.  

Governor Branstad says that shows fraud and abuse will go down, now that for-profit companies are in charge of most of Iowa’s Medicaid patients.      

Joyce Russell/IPR

A now five-year effort to beef up science and technology education in Iowa schools is paying off, according to a study by Iowa’s three Regents universities. The program is known by the acronym "STEM," which stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Backers say boosting STEM fields will help Iowa companies find employees for good-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing, information technology, and other fields. STEM Advisory Council Director Jeff Weld says the results so far are encouraging. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Terry Branstad confirmed on Monday that the for-profit companies now managing Iowa’s multi-billion dollar Medicaid program did not follow the rules in the first two months of operation. But the governor also says the state issued no warnings or fees, in spite of complaints of late payments to health care providers and delayed care to patients.  

Kim Weaver is the Democratic candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 4th congressional district, challenging seven term incumbent Republican Steve King.     

Weaver is a state employee from Sheldon.    If elected, she would be Iowa’s first female member of the U.S. House.

Before a small crowd of fairgoers, Weaver called for a higher minimum wage, help for student debt, better mental health services for veterans, and immigration reform.   She says even the Farm Bureau agrees with her on immigration.

Joyce Russell/IPR
Joyce Russell/IPR

Former Des Moines Register editor and NBC news executive Michael Gartner is weighing in on the Donald Trump campaign’s practice of denying press credentials for prominent news organizations.

Gartner calls it “loopy”, but he’s downplaying the effect of the policy.

“Any reporter who's worth her salt can get into anything,” Gartner said.

However, a Washington Post reporter was recently barred from a rally for vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence even as a regular citizen.    

Rebecca Sales/Flickr

That phone book delivered to your doorstep every year may soon become a thing of the past under new rules the Iowa Utilities Board is considering.  

Industry representatives say the new rules would bring the state’s telecommunications industry into the modern era.

Under the rules, telecommunications companies would no longer be required to provide the books, although industry representatives say they would be provided upon request.

Michael Sadler with CenturyLink says the paper books are getting used less all the time.

Gage Skidmore/flickr

A spokesman for Governor Branstad confirms that the governor has agreed to advise the Donald Trump campaign on renewable fuels and other issues, what the spokesman calls “issues important to Iowans".  

But the spokesman declined to comment on reports that another prominent Iowan, agribusiness leader Bruce Rastetter, is on the list for a job in a Trump administration.  

Branstad spokesman Ben Hammes is downplaying the announcement about the governor advising Trump.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Consumer advocates who are worried about elderly Iowans in particular pleaded with the Iowa Utilities Board Tuesday not to ease up on phone companies who provide landline service, especially in rural Iowa.  

The Board is considering rules to give companies more time to restore service when there’s been a phone outage. 

Anthony Carroll with the AARP says thousands of Iowans without cellphones still rely on landlines for everyday needs, including dialing 9-1-1.

Joyce Russell/IPR
Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is urging the administrators who oversee spending for Iowa’s Regents universities to keep a close eye on their budgets, after reports of large salaries at the Regents administrative offices.   

Due to the salary for the board’s executive director and other expenses, over $3.5 million will come from the universities themselves to keep the board office running.   

Branstad says the cost of running the board should stay as reasonable as possible.

John Pemble/IPR
John Pemble/IPR

There are enough state troopers roaming the Iowa State Fairgounds, so fairgoers don’t need to bring in their own weapons to protect themselves.     

That’s from Governor Branstad, commenting on the current ban on fairgoers carrying loaded guns, even  for those with concealed weapons permits.

Branstad says he supports the right to carry.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad’s chief information officer says state government is at moderate risk of attack by hackers and other malicious operators on the internet, and a new cybersecurity strategy should help mitigate that risk.    

Robert von Wolffradt says state government is concerned about the kind of attack on the Department of Revenue in South Carolina that exposed social security and credit card numbers for thousands of taxpayers.   

He says the new strategy includes a comprehensive analysis of risk and how to mitigate it.

Trump in Des Moines

Aug 8, 2016
Clay Masters/IPR

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump along with his running mate Mike Pence attracted an enthusiastic crowd of over 1500  at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines on Friday.

The crowd cheered wildly as Trump repeated his call for a wall to keep immigrants out of the country, with Mexico covering the cost.      

 And they yelled “lock her up” as Trump mocked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Hillary Clinton lacks the temperament, judgement, and moral character to lead this country,”   Trump said.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad today criticized Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, after Trump got into a so-called war of words with the father of a soldier who died in Iraq.  

At last week’s Democratic convention, with his wife by his side, Khizr Khan spoke out against Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States until security concerns are addressed. 

Trump calls that a vicious attack, and he questioned why the dead soldier’s mother didn’t speak. 

Branstad suggests Democrats set a trap for the candidate by having Khan speak.

niXerKG / Flickr

Recent videos of police shooting unarmed black men and recent shootings of police officers have led to increased unrest between two groups already used to tension.

On this edition of River to River, Joyce Russell hosts the final conversation of Iowa Public Radio’s “Beyond Iowa Nice” series by bringing black Iowans and police together to talk about what can be done to ease tensions between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says he will not accompany GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on his first visit to the state this week since winning the nomination, but that’s because of scheduling conflicts, and he does plan to appear with Trump in future visits to Iowa.  

Grassley will be on Iowa ballots this fall along with Trump, sparking speculation about how one campaign might be affected by the other.       

Grassley recalls in 2004, he was on the ballot with incumbent GOP president George W. Bush.   

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says he wants more information about a cyber attack at the Democratic National Committee that resulted in the online publication of thousands of sensitive e-mails.   

The FBI is investigating whether Russia broke into DNC servers and handed over information to Wiki-Leaks which promptly posted it online.  

Grassley says it’s believable Russia was behind it.

"I believe they have the capability and the history of doing it, but do I know they're specifically involved in this hacking?" Grassley asks. “I don't know.” 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Dozens of health care providers and others crowded a committee room at the statehouse today.  

Democrats in the Iowa Senate held a hearing on problems with Iowa’s new privately managed Medicaid program, which provides health care for the poor and disabled.

The issues include  delayed payments for providers, and claims denied for services.

Hospitals and others say they’re borrowing money to cover expenses while they wait for reimbursement.  

Others have laid off employees because of the shortfall.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Three Iowa school districts will test out a new program to provide first responders with better information in the event of a school shooting or other emergency.   

The program is dubbed WISE, for Wi-Fi Internet for School Emergencies.

Under the pilot project, a dedicated wi-fi network will link law enforcement officials with school surveillance cameras in Marshalltown, Norwalk, and Martensdale-Saint Mary's Community Schools.  

Iowa Department of Public Safety

An increase in bicycle fatalities on Iowa roadways this year has cyclists and public safety officials concerned, and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau has launched a public awareness campaign to address the problem.    

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition says already this year there have been nine fatalities, more than in any year since 2010.    

That includes the death of a RAGBRAI cyclist early Sunday morning.

Governor Branstad says his administration will be recommending ways to address distracted and drunk driving, and that includes bicycle safety.

ACLU of Iowa

A long-time employee at the Iowa Women’s Prison in Mitchellville has filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity. 

According to the complaint, 34-year old Department of Corrections transgender nurse Jesse Vroegh is being denied access to male restrooms and locker rooms, but  is allowed to use unisex facilities instead.       

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

In Washington D.C. the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hard at work hoping to elect more Democrats to the U.S. House.  

In Iowa, they’ve targeted 3rd District Republican incumbent David Young for defeat.   

The DCCC has launched television ads linking Young to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  

The ads will run in Iowa through the Republican convention.   

The ads are running in ten congressional districts across the country.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A new state law is in effect expanding access to a drug that can stop the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose and prevent it from being fatal.  

In the waning hours of the legislative session, lawmakers agreed to let family members purchase the antidote ahead of an overdose emergency.   

Earlier in the session lawmakers approved a bill allowing family members or friends to possess and administer naloxone but under that bill they couldn’t buy it.  

Kevin Gabbert at the Iowa Department of Public Health says that was a big gap.

Marcia Cirillo/flickr

Former Democratic Governor Chet Culver says there are interesting races on the November ballot including the contest between his former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge and Republican incumbent Charles Grassley. 

But he says his new job as president of the Greater Des Moines YMCA will keep him from working to get Judge and other Democrats elected.  

Culver says working for the YMCA, he’ll have to appeal to both Republicans and Democrats.

“So I will take a step back from the political arena,” Culver says.  

Cabrera Photo/flickr

Children living in homes where caregivers are using, selling, or manufacturing drugs may see new protections as a result of a working group convening soon in Des Moines. 

The group will study the issue after a bill filed this year on drug-endangered children failed to pass.

Shoppers in parts of Warren and Taylor counties will be paying an extra penny of sales tax starting today.

In March, voters in several communities in Warren County approved the new one-cent tax known as the local option sales tax or LOST.

The vote covers portions of the cities of Des Moines and West Des Moines that reach into Warren County.   

Victoria Daniels at the Iowa Department of Revenue says the tax isn't in effect elsewhere in those larger communities.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The YMCA of Greater Des Moines has landed a new high-profile administrator, naming former Democratic Governor Chet Culver as its new president.    

Culver will oversee fundraising as the Y strives to complete delayed capital projects, including an Olympic-size swimming pool at the downtown branch.    

Culver says he’s long been interested in athletics and wellness.  

Officials at the Y say his contacts in the community will be invaluable.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republican State Auditor Mary Mosiman warns that an $800 million state budget surplus has now fallen to about $80 million because of big property tax cuts and a new teacher leadership program.   

She warns against new multi-year commitments, now that state tax receipts have dwindled. 

Mosiman says when lawmakers passed the big programs, the state could afford them.

“It’s taxpayer money and we need to do something with it,” Mosiman says.  “So they put it to use with the multiyear commitments being education and property tax reform.”